Health dept. says Norfolk trade show with 90+ attendees is permissible

Posted at 10:05 PM, Aug 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-17 22:34:45-04

NORFOLK, Va. - It's been more than two weeks since Governor Ralph Northam's executive order 68 took effect in coastal Virginia. The mandate bans public and private gatherings of more than 50 individuals.

So there are questions as to whether or not adhering to restrictions was in the cards last weekend when a trade show with upwards of 90 people in attendance was held inside Norfolk's Masonic Temple - which rented its event space to Tidewater Cards and Collectibles.

According to Norman Grefe of the Norfolk Health Department, unlike wedding receptions or birthday parties - the trade show did not have a 50-person restriction.

"This is more or less a special event, something that occurs on the weekend," Grefe explained to News 3's Adam Winkler via Zoom Monday. "This particular event would fall under the public amusement and entertainment venue. So in that capacity, the cap is much higher than what is currently allowed under a social gathering."

Photos from the cards and collectibles show, shared with News 3, appear to reveal vendors not wearing masks and distancing not being enforced. That begs the question: when an event host rents space from a venue, who is responsible for enforcement of restrictions to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19?

"In terms of mandatory requirements, there should be appropriate signage when you come into the establishment," Grefe noted. "Facial coverings are required, so is social distancing. In a situation where a venue is leased by an event operator, the burden of ensuring compliance does fall on the event operator."

News 3 reached out to Michael Christopher, the promoter of Sunday's show. He declined to be interviewed for our story.

And when it comes to hearing from you, the citizens, the health department hopes you'll speak up.

"If residents do see things that are of concern for them, we do encourage them to contact their local health department," Grefe said. "Or, better yet, go to the Virginia Department of Health online complaint portal."