Northam issues stay-at-home order; Stoney limits access to parks, James River

Eduardo Acevedo, News Assistant

Gov. Ralph Northam issued an executive order on Monday requiring Virginians to stay inside their homes, with some exceptions, during a press conference in Virginia’s most recent response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The executive order went into effect Monday and remains in “full force” until June 10. There are 1,020 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Virginia and 25 related deaths, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

“As of today, almost half of the COVID-19 cases in Virginia are in people under age 50,” Northam said at the press conference. “Every age group needs to act responsibly and stay home. No age group is immune to this virus.”

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney issued a statement following Northam’s press conference in support of the governor’s order.

“We will get through this crisis, but for the sake of our neighbors, especially the most vulnerable among us, I beg Richmonders to take this seriously,” Stoney said in the release. “We are all safer and stronger at home.”

Stoney also restricted activities at the James River; visitors can’t swim, sunbathe or gather in groups, but they can still ride bikes, walk, run and hike for exercise. The restrictions went into effect at 5 p.m. Playgrounds and courts at Richmond Public Schools will close, along with public parks. 

Northam said travel between private residences, and all other places, should be reserved for when the trip is essential.

“Social distancing and frequent handwashing are our best tools to combat the coronavirus,” Northam said. “Most Virginians recognize this and are complying, but I’ll say it again because I want everyone to hear me: stay home.”

Northam said one reason for the executive order was that some people were dismissing social distancing and ignoring the 10-person limit for social gatherings.

“This weekend, some of our beaches and other recreational areas were literally packed,” Northam said. “Everyone who is gathering in a crowd at any place around the state is putting themselves and others at risk.”

Northam said travel for food, medical emergencies, supplies, work, or to get exercise and fresh air is permitted under the stay-at-home order.

Northam’s executive order states all public or private gatherings of 10 or more people are prohibited. This includes indoor and outdoor parties as well as religious and social events.

All of Virginia’s public beaches are closed for anything except exercise and fishing, and social distancing requirements must be followed.

Virginia will submit the request to receive federal major disaster status on Monday, Northam said. If granted, Virginia will be able to provide additional disaster-related unemployment support, legal services, food and sheltering assistance, and more.

“Do not go out unless you need to go out,” Northam said. “This is very different from wanting.”

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