FAIRFAX, Va. — New COVID-19 restrictions began in the Commonwealth of Virginia on Monday after Gov. Ralph Northam announced new statewide rules.
The restrictions come as COVID-19 coronavirus cases across the country continue to surge, including a rise in Virginia.
The new restrictions include:
- Reduction in public and private social gatherings (indoor and outdoor) from 250 to 25.
- The mask mandate will now include ages 5 and up. (It was previously ages 10 and up.)
- Essential retail such as grocery stores and pharmacies will now have an enforceable penalty through the Virginia Department of Health. It will be a class 1 misdemeanor. (The penalty was previously only applied to nonessential retail.)
- Alcohol sales must stop at 10 p.m.
- Bars and restaurants must close by midnight.
“COVID-19 is surging across the country, and while cases are not rising in Virginia as rapidly as in some other states, I do not intend to wait until they are. We are acting now to prevent this health crisis from getting worse,” said Northam.
According to a spokesperson for Northam's office, the 25-person gathering ban applies to social gatherings and does not impact capacity at retail stores or fitness centers.
It also does not apply to religious services, employment settings or school classrooms, the spokesperson said.
The restrictions go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday, Nov. 16.
Anthony Cordero, the owner of Primetime Sports Pub and Grille in Fairfax, said the new restrictions are going to have a significant impact on Virginia’s already struggling restaurant industry.
“They don't realize how much they're killing the restaurant business with this, they really don't. You're missing out on four hours’ worth of alcohol sales,” Cordero said. “Because maybe you get a few people to come into the restaurant a little bit after 10 p.m. But who's going to really come out if you can't have anything to drink? Let's be honest, especially on the weekends.”
Cordero said his restaurant has complied with the regulations and added enhanced safety measures.
“We've been doing no bar seating, still six feet apart, we invested all this money in sanitation equipment, plexiglass dividers. You know ... everything,” Cordero said. “Then they do this to us and make us take a step back again. They keep throwing us all these bumps in the road and we have to keep figuring out some way to keep making money and survive in here.”
Cordero said the new regulations have his employees worried.
"It's a month before Christmas. A lot of these people have kids, this is how they support their families," Cordero said. "We're still hanging on the best we can, but it's just, I think it's terrible.”
Gov. Northam said COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are increasing in every health region of the state. His statements comes as the average COVID-19 cases per day are higher than they were during the statewide peak in May.
In the video message to Virginians, Northam said the virus is spreading in indoor places like restaurants where people take off their mask, at small social gatherings like dinner parties, and when people ignore the science and think they don’t need to wear a mask inside.
“We are acting now so things do not get worse. We know that these mitigation measures work. We saw that earlier in the year. I am confident we can get our numbers back down, but it requires all of us to make smart choices,” Northam said.