Severity: Critical Alert

Transportation: Officials in Virginia, US, extend closure of nonessential businesses through May 14. Stay-at-home order in place through June 10.

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 08 May 2020 12:52 GMT and is scheduled to expire 14 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Virginia (map)
  • Time Frame: Through at least May 14
  • Impact: Significant transport and business disruptions; heightened security

Summary
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has extended an executive order that requires nonessential businesses to close through at least May 14, as part of the commonwealth's efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The order stipulates that restaurants and bars cannot provide in-person services and entertainment, and personal care and recreational businesses such as fitness centers, barbershops, and theaters must remain closed. Gatherings of 10 people or more remain banned. Public beaches are also closed, except for exercising and fishing.

Commonwealth authorities had previously ordered the cancellation of in-person lessons at schools, colleges, and universities through the rest of the academic year. They had also issued a stay-at-home order, which remains in place through June 10. Under the stay-at-home order, residents may leave their homes to purchase basic goods, attend to healthcare issues, care for a person in need, visit family members, or travel to/from work at a business, non-profit, or government service considered essential. Residents may also engage in outdoor activities, such as exercising, provided they comply with social distancing requirements. Residents should also wear face coverings when in public.

Authorities in Virginia are likely to initiate a plan to ease some of the business restrictions in mid-May but have not confirmed a starting date.

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 measures taken by Virginia authorities are similar to actions adopted by other governments in the US and globally in recent weeks in response to the spread of COVID-19. 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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