Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced a “stay at home” order Monday to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, directing Virginians to remain at home except for food, supplies, work, medical care or to get fresh air or exercise.
The executive order, which will be in effect until June 10 unless updated or rescinded, calls for all Virginia institutions of higher education to stop in-person classes and instruction. Private campgrounds must close for short-term stays, and beaches will be closed statewide except for fishing and exercise.
“We are in a public health crisis, and we need everyone to take this seriously and act responsibly,” Northam said in a prepared statement. “Our message to Virginians is clear: stay home. We know this virus spreads primarily through human-to-human contact, and that’s why it’s so important that people follow this order and practice social distancing. I’m deeply grateful to everyone for their cooperation during this unprecedented and difficult time.”
Earlier in the day, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) issued a “stay at home” order directing Maryland residents not to leave their homes unless it’s for an “essential” purpose, such as getting food or medicine or reporting for work.
Northam declared a state emergency March 12, opening up access to federal relief funds and allowing state worker flexibility during the crisis. More than 1,000 cases have been reported across the state, including 25 deaths, as of midday Monday.
Loudoun County has confirmed 61 cases and two deaths.
Northam earlier this month ordered all "non-essential businesses" to close their doors, prohibited public gatherings of more than 10 people and directed all K-12 schools to remain closed for the rest of the academic year.
Violation of the new order will be met with a Class 1 misdemeanor pursuant to Virginia Code 44-146.17.
Loudoun County officials were quick to react to the news, answering one question they anticipated from constituents: What, in effect, will the new order change?
"Lots of questions and confusion about the 'stay at home' order that media is reporting," Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) wrote on his Facebook page. "The only real change from the previous [executive order] on this topic, 53, is that beaches and public campgrounds are now closed. Everything else is pretty much the same and will be the same as far as the county's enforcement. Bottom line: If you don't need to go out, don't go out. Try to limit your trips for grocery shopping or essential supplies for when you really need them."
Similarly, Loudoun County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large), wrote, "Let me answer the question before you ask. No, I honestly don't know if this order provides a substantial difference from what is in place now, however, I'm working right now to get clarity and will report back."
This is a Times-Mirror news alert. Check back to LoudounTimes.com for updates.