Virginia closes dine-in restaurants, extends school closures through rest of academic year

Virginia announced Monday that the state will close dine-in restaurants and entertainment venues and extend school closures through the rest of the academic year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) issued an executive order that will shut down all nonessential services such as recreation and entertainment, starting midnight on Tuesday. Restaurants and bars can remain open for carry-out, curbside and delivery services.

“COVID-19 is serious, and we must act,” Northam said during a press conference. “Unfortunately, the virus does not respect national borders or state borders. It is now everywhere, or it will be soon.”

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The order, set to be in place for at least 30 days, would permit grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, health services, Virginia's alcoholic beverage stores, businesses in supply chains and other essential businesses to stay open. 

“Social distancing matters everywhere, so essential businesses that remain open have a responsibility to adhere to social distancing recommendations,” Northam said, adding that sanitization efforts need to be boosted. 

He also ordered the closure of personal care businesses that cannot adhere to social distancing, such as spas and hair salons. Gatherings with more than 10 people are prohibited for at least the 30-day period. 

He added that the list of closed businesses is not exhaustive and could be expected to change. 

“With this pandemic, states have been left to figure this out on our own, and I am acting to protect Virginians,” Northam said.

Before this order, the governor reported that last week the Virginia Employment Commission had received more than 40,000 applications for unemployment insurance. 

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Northam had previously ordered schools to close March 16-27.

Virginia followed several other states that have closed down nonessential businesses and schools in the midst of the virus but refrained from the strict stay-at-home orders issued by other states such as California, New York, Wisconsin and New Jersey.

Virginia has recorded 254 positive cases in the state, with 38 hospitalizations and six deaths, according to its health department.

Neighboring Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced all nonessential businesses would shut down at 5 p.m. Monday. 

Last week, Hogan directed the state's malls and entertainment venues to shut down and banned in-person dining at bars and restaurants.The Maryland governor also shut down all schools until at least April 27, extending the previously announced closure by a month.

In Washington, D.C., officials last week declared all bars and restaurants were limited to carry-out and delivery services, and gyms and movie theaters would close. City officials first shut down K-12 schools earlier this month.