RICHMOND, Va. -- As expected, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced at his Wednesday news conference he is extending Executive Order 53, which temporarily closed many businesses and banned public gathering of more than 10 people.
The order, which was set to expire on April 23, has been extended two weeks until May 8.
The businesses affected included restaurant dining rooms, entertainment venues, and non-essential shops that couldn’t practice social distancing.
“We will continue to monitor health data in the meantime to determine what needs to happen after that,” Northam explained at his Wednesday news conference. “It’s important to remember that the stay-at-home order remains in effect until June 10.”
When asked when businesses may reopen, Northam said his administration is working on how and when they can safely do so, but adds it won’t be the flick of a switch and people need to get used to this new normal.
“We need to be clear. Things are not going back exactly like they were before. Together we will figure out how to build it,” said Northam. “A new normal right now, that new normal will probably look like covering your face, spending more time at home, teleworking, if you can continue to use social distancing.”
In response to the Governor's decision, Virginia Senate and House Republican leadership both issued statements.
“The Governor’s actions do not take into account the vast differences in Virginia’s regions, treating densely populated areas like Northern Virginia and sparsely populated ones like Southwest and Southside alike. Virginia is a geographically vast and diverse state, and the Governor’s orders need to account for those differences," read the statement, in part, from the Senate Republicans. “Virginia can’t go on like this. For the sake of our state’s economy and the quality of life of all Virginians, we need to prepare for a safely ‘Reopened Virginia’ as soon as possible. We would welcome an opportunity to be involved in the Governor’s ongoing decision-making process, and stand ready to serve the people of Virginia.”
"Governor Northam should trust Virginians. Set some broad ground rules, utilize experts to allow more businesses to safely adapt to these circumstances, and let Virginians do what they do best — innovate and overcome. Flattening the curve and getting back to work don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Republicans stand ready to help," added the statement, in part, from House Republicans.
The announcement was made as the number of positive cases in Virginia increased to 6,500 (up 329 from Tuesday), 1,048 people have been hospitalized (up 70 from Tuesday), and 195 people have died (up 41 from Tuesday). A total of 44,169 have been tested (up 1,406 from Tuesday).
Meanwhile, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association dashboard tracking COVID-19 in the state’s hospitals reports there are currently 1,298 patients in hospitals who are either positive or whose test results are pending (up from 1,282 from Tuesday), while 752 patients have been discharged (up 721 from Tuesday).
It added 24% of the 2,865 ventilators on-hand in the state are currently in use.
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.