Northern Va.’s COVID-19 cases down ‘dramatically’; crackdown coming to Tidewater region

Though coronavirus cases in Northern Virginia are down “dramatically,” Gov. Ralph Northam said the spike in positive cases in the commonwealth’s eastern region will lead to more enforcement of public health restrictions.

In a Tuesday press briefing, Northam said Northern Virginia, which is home to about two-thirds of the state’s population, has seen its seven-day average in cases drop, and Virginia’s central, southwest and northwest regions are holding relatively steady.

However, the governor said, a large portion of the state’s increase in coronavirus cases is coming from the Tidewater region, where there’s a 10.1% positivity rate and rising.

“There’s clearly some substantial community spread,” Northam said. “A lot of that increase is driven by people socializing without wearing masks, especially young people.”

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Northam said the eastern region’s seven-day average of cases is 346, up from 60 in early June. He also noted that among Virginians ages 20-29 in that region, cases are up 250% during that same time period. “It is very concerning,” he said.

Despite the concerns, Northam said, the Tidewater area is not seeing spikes to the same degree as hot spots such as Florida and Texas.

“But, we don’t live in a vacuum,” Northam said, noting that Virginia borders D.C. and five states, and gets tourists in Hampton Roads. “If we don’t take this seriously now, we could see bigger increases across our commonwealth. That’s why we’re taking action today to head this off.”

Northam added that “because of the noncompliance,” the first step is stronger enforcement of the existing regulations, including social distancing and mandatory face coverings in public places.

The governor said Hampton Roads specifically will see a crackdown, with close to 100 inspectors across multiple agencies conducting unannounced visits to businesses to ensure compliance.

“If you own a restaurant or a business and you’re not following the regulations, your license will be on the line and we will not hesitate to take action, if needed,” Northam said.

The governor also asked for business owners to step up their own enforcement of the rules, which would add only one more requirement to Virginia’s longtime policy mandating shirts and shoes in public businesses.

“It’s just like the signs in so many store windows that say, ‘No shirt, no shoes, no service.’ Now it should be, ‘No shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service,’” he said.

Northam added that he’s also going to make sure the mayors of the beach communities are following through with sanitation and mitigation measures set in place in May.

The governor added he has directed the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority to impose an earlier cut off for alcohol sales in restaurants.

“I want to be clear: This is not the end of the actions we may take, but the beginning,” Northam said.

He said he was considering other actions as needed, such as further limiting the size of gatherings.

“I want to make it clear that these enforcement actions are to stop the people who are clearly flouting the rules,” Northam said. “You are being selfish, and you are hurting everyone who is doing the right thing to help us all beat this virus.”

The governor also stressed that measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19 were not political. “This is about our health and well-being, and it’s also about our economy. It’s going to take all of us to move forward safely,” Northam said.

Rob Woodfork

Rob Woodfork is WTOP's Senior Sports Content Producer, which includes duties as producer and host of the DC Sports Huddle, nightside sports anchor and sports columnist on

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