State Officials Urge Virginians 65 and Older to Self Quarantine
Gov. Ralph Northam announced new restrictions on restaurants and precautions for older Virginians as COVID-19 continues to spread across the state.
The Virginia Department of Health reported 67 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of noon on Tuesday. That includes cases spread through community transmission, meaning health officials weren’t able to trace the origins of the infection.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday morning, Northam asked Virginians 65 and older to self-quarantine to prevent further spread.
He also ordered restaurants, gyms, and theaters to restrict themselves to 10 or less patrons. He later followed up that rule with an executive order authorizing local authorities to enforce the procedures, with violators facing a possible license suspension and a misdemeanor charge.
“Every single one of us has a personal responsibility in this situation,” Northam said at the press conference.
Officials acknowledged that while access to supplies is improving, the state is still struggling to keep up with demands for critical medical gear, including test kits, masks, and gloves.
Virginia Department of Health commissioner Norman Oliver said the Commonwealth had between 300 and 400 test kits on hand as of Tuesday morning, with about double that set to arrive later in the day. And he said Virginia would begin rolling out automatic and drive-through testing.
Secretary of Health Daniel Carey said the state has also asked the federal government for more protective gear like masks and gloves.
“There definitely is a shortage and we're not getting everything we're asking for,” he said.
Carey said he’s working with hospitals to convert more space to treat COVID-19 patients.
Northam asked people to follow federal guidelines and avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people, but stopped short of moves made by governors in some states, including Ohio and Illinois, that have forced restaurants closed entirely.
“I'm much more about carrots than I am sticks,” Northam said. “And the reason I'm here today is to ask Virginians to be part of the solution.”
To help cope with the economic fallout of the outbreak, the governor said that he will waive a one week waiting period before laid off workers can collect unemployment benefits.
“We know that rent and other bills won’t wait,” Northam said.
Northam also announced that Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles is closing offices across the state. Services will still be provided online.
*Ben Paviour and Sara McCloskey reported this story.