Virginia Restaurants, Gyms Can Now Serve Only 10 People at Once

Unlike Washington, D.C., and Maryland, Virginia did not order restaurants to completely stop offering dine-in service

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What to Know

  • Virginia's restaurants, gyms and theaters can now serve only 10 people at once, according to an emergency order from the governor.
  • Earlier Tuesday, Gov. Ralph Northam had said the 10-person rule was only a recommendation. It now is required.
  • The state does now have community spread of COVID-19, health officials said.

Virginia tightened restrictions Tuesday night on how businesses must operate to slow the spread of coronavirus. 

Restaurants, fitness centers, and theaters must serve no more than 10 people at once, an emergency order issued by Gov. Ralph Northam says. Restaurants can still offer carryout service. 

The governor stopped short of ordering businesses to completely close, as Washington, D.C., and Maryland have done. Earlier Tuesday, Northam said the 10-person limit was only a recommendation. The emergency order issued after 6 p.m. Tuesday made the 10-person limit a requirement that is punishable as a misdemeanor, or businesses can lose their permits. 

“I hope that everyone will have the common sense to stay home tonight and in the days ahead,” Northam said in a statement. “This order will ensure that state and local officials have the tools they need to keep people safe.” 

Here’s the exact text of the executive order: “all restaurants, fitness centers, and theatres are mandated to significantly reduce seating capacity to 10 patrons, or close; while encouraged to continue carry-out and takeaway options.” 

You can read the order here. There is no end date. 

In the Mosaic District and Old Town Alexandria, many restaurants had already closed their dining rooms and were offering carryout and delivery service only. 

Additionally, state officials say there now is community spread in Virginia and that the state has its first case in a nursing facility, in a development the health commissioner called “concerning.” 

There are now 67 diagnosed cases of coronavirus in Virginia, up from 51 on Monday. Northern Virginia has dozens of cases. Two state residents have died.

Northam recommended that Virginia residents avoid large groups of people. 

“We are directing everyone across the state to abide by the 10 rule,” he said at a news conference Tuesday morning, referring to the guidance President Donald Trump gave Monday. 

Virginia’s governor urged state residents to follow the federal government’s recommendation that Americans avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, but he stopped short of ordering businesses to close, as D.C. and Maryland have done.

“I’m much more about carrots than sticks,” Northam said Tuesday morning when he was asked about enforcement. 

Unemployment funds are available in Virginia, and a one-week waiting period has been waived. 

“We know that rent and other bills won’t wait,” Northam said. 

Department of Motor Vehicles offices will close. 

The state health department had 300 to 400 coronavirus test kits as of Tuesday afternoon. Others were being ordered. 

All public schools in Virginia are closed for at least two weeks in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. Northam said Friday that schools would be closed March 16-27, at a minimum

“I recognize this will pose a hardship on many families, but closing our schools for two weeks will not only give our staff time to clean and disinfect school facilities, it will help slow the spread of this virus," the governor said in a statement. 

Two days later, on Sunday, Northam banned all gatherings of more than 100 people.

The residents who died of the virus were a man in his 70s who lived near James City County and a man in his 70s who lived in the Peninsula region. 

Sixty-seven people had tested positive for the virus in Virginia as of Tuesday morning. The patients included residents of Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties. 

Small businesses in an Alexandria neighborhood are thinking outside the box to survive during the coronavirus pandemic. Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey reports.

The governor sought to reassure residents. 

“We will get through this together. We live in the best state, in the best country in the world,” he said. 

The Virginia Department of Health includes probable cases in its county-level data. For the state total NBC Washington is only including confirmed cases.

Stay with NBC Washington for more details on this developing story. 

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