Gov. Ralph Northam, citing the continued spread of the new coronavirus, ordered on Monday all Virginia schools closed for the rest of the academic year and placed new restrictions on many businesses, ordering some of them closed, as well.
Northam’s executive order, released later in the day, spells it out: All gatherings of more than 10 people are banned, with the exception of “gatherings that involve the provision of health care or medical services,” food banks, media operations, law enforcement agencies and government operations.
All restaurants can only offer delivery and takeout service.
Child care services can remain open, although they are also required to maintain a group size smaller than 10. Northam, in the order, urged child care providers “to prioritize services for children of essential personnel, while asking all families with the ability to keep their children home to do so.”
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“Many of our non-essential businesses must close,” Northam said of the executive order, which goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, and lasts at least 30 days.
But what counts as nonessential?
What will close
Recreation and entertainment businesses will close. That includes:
- Entertainment venues, such as theaters, concert venues and museums;
- Gyms and other indoor exercise facilities;
- Barber shops, spas, tanning salons and tattoo shops, as well as any other personal care services where people can’t stay 6 feet apart;
- Racetracks and historic horse racing facilities;
- Bowling alleys, skating rinks, zoos, social clubs and “all other places of indoor public amusement.”
What stays open
Essential retail businesses can stay open. They include:
- Grocery stores, pharmacies and other retailers that sell food and beverage products or pharmacy products, including dollar stores, and department stores with grocery or pharmacy operations;
- Medical, laboratory and vision supply retailers;
- Electronic retailers that sell or service cellphones, computers, tablets and other communications technology;
- Automotive parts, accessories and tire retailers, as well as automotive repair facilities;
- Home improvement, hardware, building material and building supply retailers;
- Lawn and garden equipment retailers;
- Beer, wine and liquor stores;
- Retail functions of gas stations and convenience stores;
- Retail located within health care facilities;
- Banks and other financial institutions with retail functions;
- Pet and feed stores;
- Printing and office supply stores; and
- Laundromats and dry cleaners.
All other retail shops can stay open as long as they stick to the under 10 people limit, which does not include staff.
The visitor centers of Virginia state parks are closed, but people can still walk the trails as long as they practice social distancing.
School meal pickups will continue.
You can read the whole executive order here.
Stay-at-home order issued
On March 30, Governor Northam issued a stay-at-home order in the commonwealth which will remain in place until June 10, 2020 unless it is rescinded.
Under the order, all Virginians are directed to remain in their homes unless they are seeking medical attention, getting essential supplies, taking care of a family member or another approved activity as outlined by executive order 55.
Private campgrounds have been ordered to close for short-term stays and beaches are closed to the public except for fishing and exercise.
What kind of assistance is available for businesses that are closed?
Mark Scarano, executive director of Community Business Partnership, told Fairfax County small businesses in a webinar that federal disaster loans are available from the Small Business Administration to meet payroll, pay rent, obtain inventory and generally keep the business operating.
“We would encourage you to please look at the SBA’s website, and it will take you right to this really remarkable loan program that I’ve never seen in my 22 years of economic development or economic development finance,” Scarano said.
Scarano said the SBA is offering loans that top out at $2 million each at interest rates below 4%.
WTOP’s Dick Uliano and Zeke Hartner contributed to this report.
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