— By Carol Vaughn
Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday told Virginians to avoid non-essential gatherings of more than 10 people, as federal guidelines say. Virginia had 67 confirmed cases of CORVID-19 as of Tuesday, but none on the Eastern Shore.
The 10-person rule does not include normal operations at essential services such as manufacturers, distribution centers, airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, grocery stores, or pharmacies, according to a press release.
Additionally, Northam ordered all restaurants, fitness centers and theaters to reduce their capacity to 10 customers, or close to that number, and encouraged restaurants to continue carry out or drive-through options.
The measure falls short of the outright closure of those places ordered by Maryland’s governor on Monday.
Northam also ordered Virginia’s 75 DMV offices and mobile DMV units to close to the public, and said 60-day extensions will be granted for anyone who cannot renew online, or whose license or registration expires before May 15.
All district and circuit courts in the state also will suspend non-essential, non-emergency proceedings through April 6, after Northam requested and the Supreme Court of Virginia granted a judicial emergency.
Included is a prohibition on new eviction cases for tenants who are unable to pay their rent due to the outbreak.
The State Corporation Commission also ordered utilities — including electric, natural gas, and water companies — to suspend disconnecting services for 60 days to help those financially impacted by the outbreak.
Northam in a press conference Tuesday said people over 65 or with chronic health conditions should self-quarantine. “Please protect yourself,” he said. The governor also said he will give daily updates during the emergency.
After declaring a state of emergency on March 11, Northam on March 12 ordered all K-12 schools in Virginia to close for at least two weeks.
Northam also announced actions Tuesday to support workers affected by the outbreak, including waiving the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits and expanded eligibility to receive unemployment benefits if an employer needs to slow or temporarily stop operations because of the virus.
Workers who do not have paid sick leave and who are told by officials to self-quarantine, or who need to stay home to care for an ill family member, also may be eligible for unemployment benefits.