Virginia’s public gathering limits, daily curfews, face mask requirements and other COVID-19 restrictions will stay in place until the end of February, drawing concern from some members of the business community.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesday he issued Executive Order 72, which extends and slightly modifies the state restrictions. Under the new restrictions, face masks will be required in not only indoor settings but also in any outdoor setting when a person cannot remain 6 feet away from other people.
Under the order, all Virginians are subject to a daily curfew between midnight and 5 a.m., which means they are required to stay in their homes during that time. The order provides for a few exceptions, including those who need to commute to or from work and those who are seeking medical attention.
Bars that do not serve food will have to remain closed, and alcohol sales after 10 p.m. in all restaurants will remain prohibited. All restaurants and dining establishments still have to close by midnight. Tables will have to be 6 feet apart, patrons must wear a mask while not eating or drinking and employees will have to continue wearing face masks.
Public gatherings will be reduced to a 10-person limit, including parties and celebrations, whether they are indoors or outdoors. There are some exceptions, such as religious gatherings and educational gatherings. Sporting events will be capped at 25 people, and the governor urged schools to move indoor sporting events outside if possible.
Northam also approved permanent workplace regulations that can be lifted only when the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Safety and Health Codes Board meets and repeals them.
“While the end of this pandemic is finally in sight, the virus is still spreading, including several highly contagious variants, and now is not the time to let up on preventative measures,” Northam said in a statement. “I am grateful to the many businesses and organizations who have been with us throughout this process and continue to take the necessary steps to operate safely. These standards will reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure and protect the health and safety of Virginia workers, consumers, and communities as we move our Commonwealth forward together.”
Northam’s announcements drew criticism from members of the business community who cautioned that businesses are struggling under the state’s regulations.
“Every time hard-hit small businesses see a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the pandemic restrictions, the tunnel seems to get a bit longer, so the news of a month-long extension is disheartening,” Virginia State Director of the National Federation for Independent Business Nicole Riley said in a statement. The NFIB is the largest small business association in the country.
“But, we are certainly grateful that the Governor hasn’t chosen to increase capacity limits and hope with widespread vaccinations all restrictions will be lifted and Virginians will be more likely to dine out, go to the movies, or attend events,” Riley said.
Without an extension, the governor’s executive orders would have expired Sunday.
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