Severity: Critical Alert

Transportation: Officials in Virginia, US, to ease business restrictions starting May 15, except for counties and cities in the Northern Virginia region.

The locations affected by this alert are:

  • Norfolk, Virginia
  • Richmond, Virginia
  • Hampton-Newport News, Virginia
  • Lynchburg, Virginia
  • Roanoke, Virginia
  • Staunton, Virginia
  • Chincoteague, Virginia
  • Charlottesville, Virginia
  • Danville, Virginia
  • Petersburg, Virginia
  • Shenandoah Valley, Virginia
  • Fredericksburg, Virginia

This alert began 13 May 2020 13:12 GMT and is scheduled to expire 28 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Virginia (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Significant transport and business disruptions; heightened security

Summary
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued executive orders to ease business restrictions in the commonwealth starting May 15, except in the Northern Virginia region, where restrictions will remain in place through at least May 28. These measures are part of the administration's efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Starting May 15, authorities will implement Phase 1 of the economic reopening plan, under which gatherings of 10 people or more remain banned, but it allows for the following businesses to operate:

  • In-store services at retail businesses, with up to 50 percent its maximum capacity.
  • Restaurants and bars with outdoor dining, limiting the number of customers to 50 percent of their maximum capacity. They may also continue offering delivery and pickup services.
  • Gyms and fitness centers only for outdoor activities.
  • Personal care businesses, including barber shops, hair salons, and massage therapy businesses, limiting the number of customers to 50 percent of their maximum capacity, and offering services by appointment only.
  • Private campgrounds and indoor shooting ranges, with up to 50 percent its maximum capacity.
  • Places of worship for drive-in services or indoor services filling a maximum of 50 percent of their seating.


All businesses must enhance sanitation procedures, ensure social distancing, ensure all workers are wearing face coverings, and ensure sick employees do not attend work.

The lifting of restrictions will not include the Northern Virginia region due to its larger COVID-19 activity. In Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William counties and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park, authorities will maintain stricter restrictions through at least May 28.

Statewide, most entertainment businesses, including theaters, cinemas, racetracks, concert venues, museums, bowling alleys, and zoos, must remain closed. In-person lessons at schools will remain canceled through the end of the academic year. Public beaches remained closed for visitors, except for exercising and fishing. Essential businesses continue to operate statewide, including grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, and those in media, transport, security, and critical manufacturing. All residents are encouraged to wear face coverings when in public and to work from home whenever it is possible.

Significant transport and business disruptions are likely. Authorities will deploy additional security personnel to assist in enforcing the measures. Officials could amend the orders at short notice, depending on the disease activity in the coming weeks.

Background and Analysis
The relaxation of some measures are likely to accelerate in the coming weeks; however, restrictions may be reimposed or extended further should the number of COVID-19 cases increase. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Advice
Strictly heed the instructions of authorities. Avoid all nonessential operations in areas impacted by the measures. Confirm appointments. Remain courteous and cooperative if approached and questioned by law enforcement officers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.


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