Virginia governor Ralph Northam announced new COVID-19 mitigation measures Friday afternoon which expand the current mask mandate, prohibit on-site alcohol sales after 10:00 p.m., strengthen enforcement within essential retail businesses and limit gatherings to 25 people — down from the current maximum of 250. The executive order, effective on midnight Sunday, comes as the Commonwealth averages 1,500 new reported cases of COVID-19 per day.
The University is currently reviewing the new regulations to determine their impact on its operations.
COVID-19 cases across Virginia and throughout the United States have surged in recent weeks. The Commonwealth’s seven-day positivity rate sits at 6.5 percent.
“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,” Northam said in a press release. “We are acting now to prevent this health crisis from getting worse.”
While cases across the state tick up, the Thomas Jefferson Health District has seen a decline in cases with a seven-day positivity rate of 2.1 percent. Among the University community, there has been a modest upward trend in daily average new cases since Nov. 1. This week, the daily average number of new cases of COVID-19 in the University community is nine — up from six during the week of Nov. 1.
Currently, private and public gatherings in Virginia are limited to 250 individuals, but Northam’s executive order will restrict those gatherings to 25 people starting Sunday. At the University, students are permitted to gather in groups no larger than 10 individuals.
Northam’s executive order also bans restaurants and other dining establishments statewide from serving alcohol after 10:00 p.m. States such as New York, New Jersey and Minnesota have introduced similar restaurant curfews in the face of rising COVID cases.
The expanded mask mandate requires all individuals over the age of five to wear face coverings in indoor spaces. The current mask mandate, in effect since a May 29 executive order, requires those 10 years or older to wear face coverings indoors.
Violations of existing and new statewide COVID-19 policies within essential retail businesses — including groceries stores and pharmacies — will now be enforceable through the Virginia Department of Health as a Class One misdemeanor.