RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Ralph Northam issued a stay-at-home order for Virginia during Monday’s press briefing on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The order is effective immediately and will remain in place until June 10 unless it’s amended or repealed.
“This is an unprecedented and difficult time. It will be hard for people. I understand that but I have faith in you as Virginians,” Northam said Monday. “We need everyone to take this seriously and act responsibility.”
The order requires people to stay home unless they’re going to work or completing an essential task like getting food, money or medical care.
The governor says people can still exercise responsibly by going on a walk or run if they keep their distance from others.
The decision to issue a stay-at-home order is a pivot for Northam. On Friday, he called the move “semantics,” arguing it would be nothing but another description for what the state was already doing. Northam said he changed his mind after seeing packed beaches over the weekend.
“I will remind those folks that you are being very, very selfish because you are putting all of us, especially our healthcare providers at risk,” Northam said.
In response, the governor’s order specifically bans sunbathing and swimming on public beaches. People are still allowed to fish and exercise. The order also closes private campgrounds, though state parks will remain open.
Higher education institutions are now formally banned from holding in-person classes. This comes after Northam scolded Liberty University last week for allowing students back on campus.
The order maintains business restrictions that were already in place. Restaurants can still do take out and delivery. Non-essential retailers can remain open if they continue to limit customers to ten or less and enforce social distancing.
The escalation comes as Virginia health officials report a jump in cases to 1,020, with 136 hospitalizations and 25 deaths.
In a show of regional coordination, Maryland and Washington D.C. also announced ‘stay at home’ orders on Monday. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said public health experts are warning that the Washington region is at risk of becoming the next New York in two weeks time.
“What we will see a few weeks from now will be determined by how people behave today and in the following days,” Northam said.
Those who don’t adhere to the order could face a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to a year in jail. Northam said Monday that their goal is not to put people behind bars.
Local law enforcement still has the ability to fine people who don’t follow the rules.
Stay with 8News for updates to this developing story.