Reopen Virginia draws crowd, families to Virginia Capitol

Posted at 1:31 PM, Apr 16, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. -- A group gathered at the Virginia State Capitol Thursday to protest the actions Virginia Governor Ralph Northam took to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth.

Chief among those actions are closing many non-essential businesses and ordering people to stay home.

Floyd Bayne, a substitute teacher who has run for political office in the past, said Governor Northam's overstep has negatively impacted the lives of many Virginians.

"Unlike the full-time teachers who are paid on salary and still getting paid. If I’m not working, I’m not getting paid," Bayne said about his situation.

"We're fed up. We people want to go back to work," Reopen Virginia found Kristen Lynne Hall said. "I've got so many small business owners in my group that their business is failing. They're worried about how they're going to pay their next their mortgage."

Governor Northam said he is making these decision based on science, data, and public health.

"He is grateful to the millions of Virginians who are taking this seriously and working together to protect themselves, their families, and their communities," a spokesperson for the governor said. "As a doctor and as governor, his top priority is and will continue to be keeping Virginians safe."

The event was described by organizers as a family-friendly picnic.

About 50 people attended the gathering. The crowded was spilt between people on the Capitol grounds and those outside the fence.

Police on scene reminded attendees to maintain social distancing and warned people who ignored those reminders they could be cited for violating the governor's order. There have been no reported of any tickets being issued.

Earlier this week, Gov. Northam extended his Executive Order 53, which temporarily closed many businesses and banned public gathering of more than 10 people. The order, which was set to expire on April 23, has been extended two weeks until May 8.

The businesses affected included restaurant dining rooms, entertainment venues, and non-essential shops that couldn’t practice social distancing.

"When people say that it's time to stop what we're doing, and get back to normal, they're wrong," Northam said Wednesday. "Right now, the models and our hospitals expect that we'll be able to handle the expected surge in patients. But if we let off the brakes and try to go back to the way things were, we will see another spike in cases that could overwhelm our hospitals."

In response to the Governor's decision, Virginia Senate and House Republican leadership both issued statements.

“The Governor’s actions do not take into account the vast differences in Virginia’s regions, treating densely populated areas like Northern Virginia and sparsely populated ones like Southwest and Southside alike. Virginia is a geographically vast and diverse state, and the Governor’s orders need to account for those differences," read the statement, in part, from the Senate Republicans. “Virginia can’t go on like this. For the sake of our state’s economy and the quality of life of all Virginians, we need to prepare for a safely ‘Reopened Virginia’ as soon as possible. We would welcome an opportunity to be involved in the Governor’s ongoing decision-making process, and stand ready to serve the people of Virginia.”

"Governor Northam should trust Virginians. Set some broad ground rules, utilize experts to allow more businesses to safely adapt to these circumstances, and let Virginians do what they do best — innovate and overcome. Flattening the curve and getting back to work don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Republicans stand ready to help," added the statement, in part, from House Republicans.

This is a developing story.

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COVID-19 Precautions

Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.

COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.

Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.Avoid non-essential travel.