Gov. Northam closes Virginia schools for the rest of the school year

Posted at 8:09 AM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-23 14:44:48-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam says that public schools will remain closed for the rest of the current school year and certain types of businesses, like bowling alleys, gyms and theaters, must close in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Northam's announcement Monday comes as the state announced that the number of people testing positive for the virus continues to rise and is now at 254.

"Today I'm directing all schools in Virginia to remain closed at least through the end of this academic year," the governor announced. "School closures are necessary to minimize the speed at which COVID-19 spreads and protect the capacity of our healthcare system. I know this raises a lot of questions for parents and also for our students."

The governor had previously ordered a two-week school closure, which was set to end at the end of this week. Many school districts in the state have previously said they will be closed until at least mid-April.

Now that school is cancelled for the rest of the school year, the governor has left it up to school division leaders to decide how students will learn from home for the remainder of the school year.

"By [Tuesday] our Department of Education will issue guidance to help school divisions think through those decisions and ensure that every student is served equitably," Northam said. "We're already working on waivers to relieve testing requirements, and ensure that our students who were on track to graduate can do so. I understand that for many families, these closures present practical considerations of who will care for children during the day now that they are not in school."

Governor Northam called on communities, private daycare providers, community daycare providers, and schools to rally together to provide childcare to children whose parents have to go to work.

"Our childcare providers are also essential personnel," he said. "We must rally together to fill this pressing need across the Commonwealth while following strict public health protocols to keep our children safe."

The governor also signed Executive Order 53 which put additional restrictions on some businesses.

"I want to be clear, essential businesses will remain open," he said. "These are things like grocery stores, pharmacies, and banks. You will still be able to buy food and necessary supplies for you and your family. Restaurants can remain open for carryout, curbside, and delivery service only."

He ordered all recreation and entertainment centers like bowling alleys, theaters, fitness centers, and racetracks closed.

"I also want to be clear about the expectations for essential businesses that remain open," he said. "Social distancing matters everywhere. So essential businesses that remain open have a responsibility to adhere to social distancing recommendations. You need to step up sanitizing practices on common surfaces."

This is a developing story.

You can watch the governor's announcement here.