Governor Ralph Northam will not relax COVID-19 restrictions in Eastern Virginia before Labor Day. In a Tuesday press conference, Northam said he wants to avoid a post-holiday surge of cases, like those following Memorial Day and the Fourth of July earlier this year.
The announcement came shortly after Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer sent a letter to Northam, asking him to relax the 50 percent indoor restaurant capacity restriction and push back the time allowed to buy alcohol to 11 p.m. On Monday, 13 News Now reported that Dyer said his request was motivated by declining case numbers. “We wanted to wait to make sure the numbers were down and boy, once we hit six percent we were confident, and I understand it may be a little less now.”
On Tuesday, Dyer told The Virginia Star in an exclusive interview that Virginia Beach would continue complying with the restrictions.
“Certainly we’re disappointed, but, you know, we also certainly understand and appreciate the governor’s concerns and obviously we will comply with his wishes,” Dyer said. “But that being said we do hope that after Labor Day when we don’t have crowds that we’ve had … that he’ll be quick to relax the restrictions and get us back to Phase Three … to really bolster our economy and give people a true destination and relaxation point that they deserve after a long process.”
Dyer said keeping the restrictions in place for another week would have an economic effect.
“I’m sure our business owners are going to be disappointed,” he said.
On July 31, Northam’s Executive Order 68 went into effect, restricting Eastern Virginia more than the Phase Three guidelines in the rest of the state. The order prevents indoor restaurants from operating at capacity greater than 50 percent, prevents selling alcohol after 10 p.m., orders restaurants to close by 12 a.m., and prevents parties larger than 50 people. The Phase Three capacity guidelines only require restaurants to keep parties and tables six feet apart.
The order was a response to a July spike in cases in the region. Executive Order 68 states, “For example, between July 15, 2020 and July 25, 2020, the City of Virginia Beach reported an average of 103 new cases per day. On July 25, 2020, the City of Virginia Beach reported 329 new cases, more than triple the number reported the previous day. On July 25, 2020, the City of Chesapeake reported 126 new cases, the largest number it has ever reported for a single day.”
Today, Northam said that the eastern region of Virginia as a whole is just under nine percent, down from 12 percent in mid-July.
“[That’s] still higher than we’d like, but it is certainly moving in a positive direction,” Northam said. The governor is trying to maintain the momentum.
“We’re not going to make any changes before Labor Day …. I know there’s a lot of folks who want to get things back open on Labor Day. But we need to think back to Memorial Day and July the Fourth. We saw surges in the week to two weeks following those holidays around the country and certainly also here in Virginia and we don’t want to repeat that as the summer draws to a close. So if we can avoid these same surges after Labor Day, then we’ll have a running start as we go into the fall,” Northam said.
Dyer said, “Virginia Beach intends to be vigilant and compliant with the rules, and keep working with the public to [ensure personal responsibility with] things like wearing a mask and social distancing and sanitizing surfaces, and keep on fighting this. The quicker more people are compliant, the quicker we’ll get this behind us.”
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