Virginia Schools to Close Through Academic Year; Restaurants Must End Dine-In Service

"We are in this for months, not weeks,” Gov. Ralph Northam said about the fight against COVID-19

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All K-12 schools in Virginia will remain closed through "at least" the academic year and all restaurants must end dine-in service, the governor announced Monday as the state dramatically ramps up its efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Gov. Ralph Northam said at a news conference Monday afternoon that he signed an executive order to close many businesses for at least 30 days. 

Restaurants can continue carryout, delivery and drive-thru service.

All recreational and entertainment businesses must close, Northam said. These include bowling alleys, theaters, fitness centers and race tracks. Any “personal care services” that cannot adhere to social distancing also must close, including barbershops, massage parlors and spas. 

All non-essential stores can remain open but are limited to having only 10 patrons at a time. They must “adhere to social distancing and increase sanitization.” 

“We are essentially fighting a biological war right now in this country," Northam said, acknowledging the hardships the restrictions would create for many residents.

Grocery stores, health services and businesses "in the supply chain" can remain open but also must ramp up distancing and sanitization. ABC stores, which sell alcohol, also can remain open.

The restrictions on businesses take effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday. 

The restrictions announced Monday are a steep step up from what business owners and employees faced last week. Last Tuesday morning, Northam recommended that restaurants, gyms and theaters serve a maximum of 10 people at once. Later in the day, he made it a requirement. 

Go here to see the full executive order and here to see answers to frequently asked questions

The two-week-long school closures that Northam announced March 13 were set to expire this Friday, March 27. 

School leaders will get guidance Tuesday on four different options for how students can do their work and try to complete courses. 

The governor underscored the need for child care for the children of essential workers. He called on communities to keep day care centers open or provide other means of caring for the estimated 80,000 children of first responders and health care providers. 

Groups of 10 or more people in any public place will be ordered to disperse. 

Virginia had 254 positive cases of coronavirus as of Monday afternoon. Six people with the virus died. 

About 3,700 people had been tested for the virus by public and private laboratories. 

Northam said more people would test positive. 

“These numbers unfortunately will continue to rise. We are in this for months, not weeks,” 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.

Northam acknowledged that the extended school closure would have serious impacts on families of young children, and he called for “an urgent public-private response” to make sure essential workers have access to childcare. The Department of Social Services and Department of Education would be issuing guidance to communities later Monday, he said. 

The governor also said he understood the impact the changes would have on the economy, noting that about 40,000 people filed for unemployment just last week. But he said the sooner the health care crisis was brought under control, the sooner the economy could begin to recover. 

“We are moving into a period of sacrifice," he said.

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

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