In a statewide release Friday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced updated measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. New mitigation efforts include a limit of 25 individuals for in-person gatherings, an expanded mask mandate, an on-site alcohol curfew, and increased enforcement. According to the Virginia Department of Health, rising coronavirus trends are concerning in advance of the holiday season — expected to bring colder weather and increased travel.
In his statement, the governor expressed sympathy for what U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams described as “pandemic fatigue.”
“COVID-19 is surging across the country, and while cases are not rising in Virginia as rapidly as in some other states, I do not intend to wait until they are,” said Northam. “We are acting now to prevent this health crisis from getting worse. Everyone is tired of this pandemic and restrictions on our lives. I’m tired, and I know you are tired too. But as we saw earlier this year, these mitigation measures work. I am confident that we can come together as one Commonwealth to get this virus under control and save lives.”
Taking effect at midnight Sunday, measures include a reduction in public and private gatherings. All public and private in-person gatherings, excluding religious services, must be limited to 25 individuals, down from the prior limit of 250 people. The University’s limit remains 10 or fewer. All Virginians aged five and over will be required to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces. In addition, the on-site sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol will be prohibited after 10:00 p.m.
According to the governor’s release, Virginia averages 1,500 newly-reported COVID-19 cases per day, up from May’s statewide peak. Each of the Commonwealth’s health regions report a positivity rate over five percent. Hospital capacity remains stable, but hospitalizations have increased statewide by more than 35 percent in the last four weeks.
In light of increasing case numbers, Northam’s office has repeatedly warned against complacency.
“Now is the time to double down on doing the things we know prevent the spread of this virus,” Northam wrote on Nov. 10. “Virginians — you have done an exceptional job of responding to this crisis over the past eight months. We cannot afford to get complacent or let down our guard around the holidays. Let’s keep up the good work and build on the progress we’ve made.”
As of Nov. 15, the University of Virginia Health System reports 23 hospitalizations for COVID-19 and 54 active student cases of the virus. The daily average of new cases among the University community has consistently remained below 10 since mid-October. To access the University’s COVID Tracker on its “Return to Grounds” website, click here.
Dean of Students Allen Groves outlined in a Sunday email to the student body how to prevent spreading the virus over the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Before leaving, you should develop a plan for returning to your home community,” Groves wrote. “Departure testing for the Thanksgiving break is available to all students, although test results represent only one moment in time. See the Return to Grounds website for details about both mandatory and voluntary testing … Isolation or quarantine are still necessary if you test positive or are determined to be a close contact of someone with COVID-19 before leaving. For students living on Grounds, isolation and quarantine spaces will remain available during breaks.”