Multiple mandates were set to expire Jan. 31. They’ve been extended through executive order.
RICHMOND-Virginia’s curfew isn’t getting lifted, at least not for the next month. After his press conference Wednesday, Gov. Ralph Northam signed an executive order extending multiple restrictions across the Commonwealth.
“No one wants these rules around forever, but we need to keep them in place a while longer,” Northam said at the press conference, explaining his decision. “We are ramping up vaccination. This is no time to let down our guard.”
This includes the current curfew, as well as several mask mandates. If you’re wondering what curfew, that’s probably because it’s during a time most people are asleep. The order runs from midnight to 5 a.m., stating that anyone traveling for reasons other than work or necessity would be in violation. You can still go out shopping for food or supplies, for example. Anybody who needs to take a trip to the emergency room is also allowed.
At the same time, state police and local law enforcement agencies won’t pull over anyone who’s violating the order. In part, that’s because it’s not a chargeable offense.
Also, the limit on public gatherings remains in effect through the end of February. Previously, the limit on gatherings was set at 25. In December, that number dropped to 10. However, that 10-person limit doesn’t apply to every situation.
The new 10-person limit will not apply to restaurants or stores. Nothing changes for those businesses. The same goes for places of worship, private employment settings, and schools. That includes colleges and universities as well as K-12.
Northam’s earlier November order required all restaurants, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries and tasting rooms to close by midnight each day. Alcohol sales also were cut off by 10 p.m. each night.
Mask Mandate Still in Effect
Also extended was the state’s mask mandate, which now will be in effect through Feb. 28. Everyone age five and older are required to cover their mouth and nose with a mask in most indoor areas. The same goes for outdoor areas where you can’t stay six feet apart.
The extension comes due to the fact Virginia’s number of new cases and positive tests keep growing. For example, currently the COVID-19 positive test rate stands at 12.5%. That’s up from 11.1% in December. Also, the Commonwealth’s seven-day average of new cases remains above 4,000 per day. As of Jan. 27, it was at 5,227. By comparison, at this point in December, the 7-day average was at 3,600.
The increase in infection comes as Virginia struggles to vaccinate people. There’s plenty of interest, but not enough supply. In a case like this, increased demand normally means you simply put in orders for more supply. But the federal vaccine stockpile Virginia and other states were promised turned out not to exist.
In late 2020, federal officials said some vaccine was being held back, to use for booster shots. When Alex Azar resigned as Health and Human Services Secretary in the last days of the Trump administration, he admitted that was a lie.
That will change starting today, as states are expected to get 16% more doses in their weekly orders.
Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. He can be reached at [email protected].