Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced Tuesday that the state government will more strictly enforce current guidelines around social distancing and face coverings, as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rises throughout the state.
Northam specified that the sharpest increase in cases is occurring in Hampton Roads, a region which includes Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg, and the surrounding area.
“There is clearly substantial community spread [in Hampton Roads],” Northam said. “A lot of that increase is driven by people socializing without wearing masks, especially young people.”
As a result of this increase, Northam said that various state agencies — including the Department of Health and Alcoholic Beverages Control (ABC) Agency — would be conducting unannounced inspections of establishments that may be in violation of health guidelines.
The Governor clarified that these enforcement measures will occur across all of Virginia but will be focused in Hampton Roads.
“If you own a restaurant or a business and you’re not following the regulations, your license will be on the line,” Northam said. “We will not hesitate to take action if needed.”
Virginia’s current health guidelines require restaurants and bars to maintain six feet of distance between parties.
Northam also said that the current executive order requiring everyone to wear facial coverings in public may be more strictly enforced if necessary.
“If that’s brought to the attention of the Department of Health, that can be investigated, and they can be given a citation,” he said. “We’re looking at options for how to make that a civil penalty.”
Virginia ABC will also be developing a plan for an earlier cut-off of alcohol sales at restaurants and bars, which will be announced later.
Northam finally said that he will monitor cases throughout the state, and if necessary, tighten restrictions on gatherings and events on a regional basis.
“We can’t let down our guard. We can’t act like the virus has gone away,” the Governor said finally. “If we want to return to something like normal life — what we used to have — then we all have to do the right thing.”