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Gatherings capped at 25 starting Nov. 15

RICHMOND

Effective Nov. 15, per Gov. Ralph Northam’s latest executive orders, all public and private in-person gatherings will be restricted to no more than 25 people to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, down from a 250-person limit.

Virginia’s mask mandate, which has been in place since May 29, will also expand to include all people ages 5 and up in indoor public spaces. Previously, it had only applied to ages 10 and up.

Further, all essential retail businesses, including grocery stores and pharmacies, must adhere to statewide guidelines for physical distancing, wearing face coverings and enhanced cleaning. While certain essential retail businesses have already been required to adhere to these regulations as a best practice, violations will now be enforceable through the Virginia Department of Health as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

The on-site sale, consumption and possession of alcohol after 10 p.m. in any restaurant, dining establishment, food court, brewery, microbrewery, distillery, winery or tasting room is again prohibited — not just in Hampton Roads this time, but statewide. Virginia law does not distinguish between restaurants and bars, but under current restrictions, people who choose to consume alcohol prior to 10 p.m. must be served as in a restaurant and remain seated at tables six feet apart.

Virginia is averaging 1,500 newly reported COVID-19 cases per day, up from a statewide peak of approximately 1,200 in May. While Southwestern Virginia has experienced a spike in the number of diagnosed cases, over 5% of those being tested for COVID-19 are coming back positive in each of Virginia’s five health regions.

Although hospital capacity remains stable, hospitalizations have increased statewide by more than 35% in the past four weeks.

COVID-19 is surging across the country, and while cases are not rising in Virginia as rapidly as in some other states, I do not intend to wait until they are. We are acting now to prevent this health crisis from getting worse,” Northam said. “Everyone is tired of this pandemic and restrictions on our lives. I’m tired, and I know you are tired too. But as we saw earlier this year, these mitigation measures work. I am confident that we can come together as one Commonwealth to get this virus under control and save lives.”

On Nov. 10, Northam announced new contracts with three laboratories as part of the Virginia’s OneLabNetwork, which will significantly increase Virginia’s public health testing capacity. Contracts with Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, and Sentara Healthcare in Norfolk will directly support high-priority outbreak investigations, community testing events, and testing in congregate settings, with a goal of being able to perform 7,000 per day by the end of the year.