RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Gov. Ralph Northam says he’s issuing an executive order effective at 12 a.m. Friday that will impose tighter restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Hampton Roads, which includes:

  • No alcohol sold after 10 p.m.
  • Restaurants close at midnight
  • 50 percent capacity limit at restaurants, food courts, breweries, wineries, etc.
  • Parties limited to 50 people, indoor or outdoor (except religious services)

The new restrictions will apply to the Cities of Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Hampton, Williamsburg, Newport News, Poquoson, James City County, and York County.

Isle of Wight, Gloucester, and Mathews County are not included in the executive order.

The restrictions will prohibit the on-site sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol in any restaurant, dining establishment, food court, brewery, microbrewery, distillery, winery, or tasting room.

All restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, and tasting rooms must close by midnight.

Northam says the first two restrictions effectively close bars, a major source of COVID-19 spread in the region and around the country.

While Virginia law does not distinguish between restaurants and bars, the 10:00 p.m. curfew for alcohol sales and consumption, in addition to the current restrictions on seating or congregating in bar areas, effectively closes bars in the region.

Individuals that choose to consume alcohol prior to 10:00 p.m. must be served in a restaurant and remain seated at tables six feet apart.

Virginia has required face coverings in indoor public settings statewide since May 29.

“You just don’t care as much about social distancing after you’ve had a couple of drinks. That’s when the virus gets spread,” Northam said.

To view the governor’s full executive order, click here.

Northam pointed out the region’s high percent of positive tests (above 10%) and increased trends in cases and hospitalizations (ICU and emergency room visits) for the reason behind the restrictions.

“I want you to know this. We are putting a lot of attention on Hampton Roads.”

Hampton Roads has been averaging around 450 new COVID-19 cases per day, about a third to a half of the state’s daily total, and its current hospitalizations are at their highest level of the pandemic. Other areas of the state are doing relatively well compared to Hampton Roads and are seeing numbers mostly stay steady.

7-day positivity rates for Hampton Roads

Total average for Hampton Roads (11.67%) — trending back down, but well above state percentage of 7.3%

Chesapeake – 13.4% — overall trending up
Hampton – 9.2 % — trending down after increased testing
Norfolk – 12.8% — trending down from high of 17% reported on July 12
Peninsula — 8.0% — trending down after going up to 11.5% on July 17
Portsmouth — 17.0 % — trending down slightly, still high
Virginia Beach — 11.1% — trending back down after going up to 12.1% on July 16
Western Tidewater — 10.2% — trending up overall

Northam says most of the new cases come from house parties and backyard gatherings in addition to bars and restaurants, and people overall not wearing face masks. Most of the new cases involve younger people.

At this time Northam is not formalizing a self-quarantine order for people who travel to Hampton Roads or other parts of the state. Washington, D.C. just implemented a quarantine order for travelers from 28 states, and other states have implemented similar restrictions.

Northam said the restrictions for Hampton Roads will be in place for at least 2 weeks at a minimum to track the trends in the region, due to the incubation period for the virus being up to 14 days.

When asked why he’s only reinstating restrictions regionally instead of statewide, Northam said “all options are on the table.” He said he’ll continue increased enforcement across the commonwealth and follow the trends, which have mostly been steady for all other regions of the state. He says if he sees concerning trends he’ll adjust restrictions.

The announcement comes after Northam met with Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House Coronavirus Taskforce, who’s advised several states to increase restrictions before their COVID-19 numbers get worse. That advice included closing bars “where social distancing isn’t possible” and limiting indoor dining. Virginia was the last stop of Birx’s five-state tour. She also visited  Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

“It could really prevent Virginia from having the experience that our southern states have had by starting mitigation efforts sooner rather than later,” Birx said. “We do know across the south where the epidemic is now in every single county in most of these states that it’s important to do it statewide.”

Under Phase Three, Gov. Northam lifted capacity limits at restaurants but maintained Virginia’s ban on bar seating. Virginia has rules requiring all establishments that serve liquor to also serve food, so it’s not clear what businesses would fall under a potential “bar closure.”

Northam also talked about reducing inequities in COVID-19 testing, including disparities in turnaround times for results, school reopenings and more. For more on school reopening, click the link below.

This article will be updated.

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