Virginia imposes new COVID-19 restrictions in eastern part of state

Virginia imposes new COVID-19 restrictions in eastern part of state
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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) will impose new restrictions on restaurants and bars, but only in an eastern section of the state that's experiencing a major surge of new coronavirus cases, he announced Tuesday.

Northam said bars in the Hampton Roads area will be prohibited from serving alcohol after 10 p.m., and that restaurants will have to close by midnight and will be reduced to 50 percent capacity for indoor dining.

"This will effectively shut down bars," he said during a press conference.

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In addition, Northam said all private and public gatherings in the eastern region of the state, including Virginia Beach, will be limited to 50 people, down from the current statewide limit of 250.

"This is about stopping the spread of COVID-19 in Hampton Roads. It happens when too many people gather together, when too many people are noncompliant and ... when too many people are selfish," the governor said.

The rest of the state will remain in Phase 3, with no restrictions on bars or indoor dining. 

Statewide, Virginia's test positivity rate is 7.3 percent, which is down slightly from 7.7 percent last week. There were 922 new positive coronavirus cases reported Tuesday, bringing the state’s total to just under 87,000. 

The seven-day average of new daily cases is about 800, compared to more than 1,000 during the state’s peak in late May.

Most areas of the state, including the D.C. suburbs of Northern Virginia, are doing well, Northam said. The positivity rate in Northern Virginia is 5.7 percent, he said. 

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Overall, the positivity rate is 10.8 percent for the Hampton Roads area, but Northam said it's much higher in some localized areas. Outside Hampton Roads and the central peninsula area, the rate is 6 percent, Northam said. 

Officials in D.C. and the Maryland suburbs of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties were wary of Virginia's rush to Phase 3, and were concerned it would result in a spike of infections and disrupt the area's progress.

Both Northern Virginia and the Maryland suburbs waited longer than other parts of their states to reopen because of high infection rates at the time in the Washington area. But Virginia moved to Phase 3 earlier this month, while the other areas have not.