COVID-19

Governments, from the federal to the local, are imposing restrictions in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.

According to www.worldometers.info, as of the morning of March 24, there were 395,579 reported COVID-19 cases worldwide, including 17,234 deaths and 103,732 recoveries. In the United States, there were 46,168 cases, 582 deaths and 295 reported recoveries, the Website read.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of March 23 reported there had been 254 COVID-19 cases in Virginia out of 3,697 people tested, and that six people so far had died from complications of the virus in the commonwealth.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on March 23 issued a statewide order to close some non-essential businesses, ban all gatherings of more than 10 people. State officials will allow larger gatherings if these involve provision of health-care or medical services; essential services for low-income residents, such as food banks; or operations of the media, law-enforcement agencies or governmental operations.

Northam’s order, which will be in effect from March 24 at 11:59 p.m. until April 23 at 11:59 p.m., will close theaters, performing-arts centers, concert venues, museums and other indoor entertainment centers; fitness centers, gymnasiums, recreation centers and indoor sports and recreation facilities; beauty salons, barber shops, spas, massage parlors, tanning salons, tattoo shops and other locations where personal care or grooming services are performed that would not comply with “social distancing” guidelines for people to stay at least 6 feet apart.

The order also will shutter racetracks and historic horse-racing facilities, bowling alleys, skating rinks, arcades, amusement parks, trampoline parks, fairs, arts-and-crafts facilities, aquariums, zoos, escape rooms, indoor shooting ranges, public and private social clubs, and all other indoor venues for public amusement.

Except for establishments offering takeout and delivery services, the order also shuts down restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, farmers’ markets, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries and tasting rooms.

The governor’s order declared the following lines of business essential and allowed them to remain open during regular hours: grocery stores, pharmacies and other retailers selling food, beverages or pharmacy products; retailers selling medical, laboratory and vision supplies; electronic retailers selling or servicing cell phones, computers, tablets and other communications technology; stores that perform auto repairs or sell automotive parts, accessories and tires;  home-improvement, hardware, building-material and building-supply retailers; lawn and garden-equipment retailers; stores selling beer, wine and liquor stores; retail functions of gas stations and convenience stores; retail located within health-care facilities; banks and other financial institutions with retail functions; pet and feed stores; printing and office-supply stores; and laundromats and dry-cleaners.

The exempted businesses must adhere as much as possible to social-distancing recommendations, use enhanced sanitizing practices on common surfaces, and limit all in-person shopping to no more than 10 patrons per establishment, with sufficient social distancing. Businesses that violate those provisions could face Class 1 misdemeanor charges.

Northam’s order also closes all kindergarten-through-12th-grade schools for the rest of the academic year. The Virginia Department of Education will give school systems guidance on how to continue instruction. There will be options for additional instruction via summer programming, integrating instruction into coursework next year and letting students to make up content they missed during the closure.

The Virginia Department of Education also will submit a waiver to the federal government to lift end-of-year testing requirements and is examining the possibility of waiving state-mandated tests.

Northam also recommended that state residents avoid non-essential travel outside the home whenever possible.

The governor in a media statement acknowledged that the new restrictions would impose hardships on  non-essential businesses and their employees, and that state officials were not undertaking those rules lightly.

“I am calling on Virginians to sacrifice now, so that we can get through this together,” Northam said.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on March 17 declared a state of local emergency, easing the county’s access to state and federal emergency-disaster funding and letting the county to procure items to address the situation.

The county has closed all its senior centers and adult day health-care centers until further notice, but will provide meal-delivery service to registered participants who desire it.

Fairfax County Public Schools  (FCPS) has closed all its school buildings and administrative offices and canceled activities until further notice, but continues to provide food service at dozens of locations countywide. For a list of those sites, visit www.fcps.edu/news/coronavirus-update-food-resources.

FCPS will serve breakfasts from 8 to 10:30 a.m. and lunches from  10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. All FCPS students, and other county children age 18 and younger may obtain one free meal daily and receive additional no-cost meals upon request. Adults may buy breakfasts and lunches for $2 each.

The virus also has forced operational changes by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), three employees of which are recovering from the virus. Metrorail trains are running every 20 minutes on all lines except the Red Line, where they will arrive every 15 minutes. Stations served by multiple lines will see trains every seven to 10 minutes.

Metrorail’s Smithsonian and Arlington Cemetery stations will remain closed until further notice to keep off the rail system passengers doing  non-essential travel to see the region’s famed cherry blossoms.

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