RICHMOND, Va. -- During a Thursday press conference, Governor Ralph Northam urged Virginians to stay home in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
"Some people and some businesses are literally being selfish," Northam said.
He announced new COVID-19 restrictions, which go into effect Monday, December 14. The executive order includes a modified stay-at-home order from 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. each night. Exceptions include travel to and from work.
But, Northam admitted that the curfew would not be enforced.
“It’s part of the messaging. Even during the other hours of the day if you don't need to be outside of your house — we know that the safest place to be is at home,” he explained.
The guidance worried entrepreneurs after a crushing pandemic that has forced thousands of businesses nationwide to close. Business owners that rely on foot traffic and tourism expected a continued slump in sales.
Nicole Riley is the Virginia State Director for the National Federation of Independent Business. She said business owners understand why there is a need for stricter regulations surrounding the pandemic.Their concern is the number of customers going into retail shops and restaurants would drop at a time of the year when retailers count on holiday sales.
“What we are worried about is obviously this has gone on much longer than anyone anticipated from the Spring. What we are worried about is that [Northam] could continue restrictions, which will mean the greatly likelihood that more and more small business owners will not survive the first of the year,” Riley stated.
The restrictions will remain in effect until January 31, 2021 unless rescinded or amended.
"They will be temporary, at least for now," said Northam. "But I want everyone to understand this up front. We don't want to extend this but we may have to it all depends on what the virus is doing next month. And that depends on what you do right now.”
According to the National Restaurant Association, 10,000 restaurants nationwide closed within the last three months.
In a letter sent Dec. 7 to Congress leaders, the Association told lawmakers that restaurants “are under siege and in desperate need of financial assistance as tens of thousands of businesses are shuttering permanently or closing for the long term.”
In a survey, the Association found that 87% of full-service restaurants reported an average of 36% drop in sales revenue.
Chad Painter has owned Wonderland in Shockoe Bottom for about 16 years. He and his employees were one of the first to embrace the COVID-19 restrictions at the start of the pandemic.
“I have a giant queen-size sheet spray painted on the front of the building that says if we are open you will wear a mask,” Painter explained. “I’ve got five air cleaners in there, we spray everything down like every 35 minutes. It’s a constant cycle of wiping things down and we are trying to provide the safest environment we can.”
Painter said his restaurant aims to go up and beyond of the requirements. About 10 percent of establishments across the state fail to comply with the COVID-19 guidelines, according to the governor.
Painter encouraged others business owners to take the virus seriously for the sake of everyone else in his industry.
“We will all win in the end if we all play by the rules,” he stated. “It affects literally every single one of us or we will be all out of business.”
Tara Courtland, a mother of two in Henrico County, also said she hoped the new restrictions would encourage more families to take the virus seriously.
Courtland and her wife celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah, which started on Thursday night. What’s normally a holiday of gathering with extended family has now been limited to the individuals inside their home.
“I would really hope it makes people really pay attention to how serious this is getting. The more seriously we take this the faster we will be out of it,” she said.
She anticipated that more families would limit gatherings with extended family and friends inside the home.
“I think it’s easy to think that doesn’t count somehow. I think what he said today reinforces that it all counts,” Courtland stated.
Northam also expanded the state’s mask requirements in light of new CDC recommendations. The new requirements include all shared indoor settings and outdoor areas where social distancing isn’t possible. The previous mask mandate requires only masks be worn in indoor public settings.
"Virginians, if you don’t have to be out, stay at home. Whenever we are around other people, we all need to wear a mask, indoors and out,” said Northam.
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.