Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesday that non-essential businesses will remain closed through May 8 in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Northam's original directive ordering the temporary closing of restaurant dining areas, theaters, museums, gyms, hair salons and other non-essential businesses was set to run through April 23, but will now be in effect for an additional two weeks. The new order also continues the ban on gatherings of more than 10 people.
Northam's separate stay-at-home order will remain in effect until June 10.
The announcement of the extension of the closing of non-essential businesses came on the same day Virginia health officials reported the largest one-day jump in deaths from the coronavirus in the state. As of Wednesday, the Virginia Department of Health reported a total of 195 deaths, an increase of 41 from the total deaths reported on Tuesday. Health officials said a lag in recording some deaths can result in a periodic large increase in the number reported in a 24-hour period.
Northam said efforts at social distancing are working to slow the spread of the virus in the state. He said extending the temporary closure of entertainment and recreational businesses is aimed at continuing that trend.
“So when people say that it’s time to stop what we’re doing and get back to normal, they’re wrong,” he said. “Right now, the models and our hospitals expect that we’ll be able to handle the expected surge in patients. But if we let off the brakes and try to go back to the way things were, we’ll see another spike in cases that could overwhelm our hospitals.”
The Department of Health reported Wednesday that 6,500 people in Virginia have tested positive for COVID-19 out of a total of 44,169 people tested.
The total number of cases in Virginia since the coronavirus arrived in the state now stands at 6,500, in increase of 300 new cases from the 6,200 reported Tuesday. That daily increase is lower than the 425 new cases reported Tuesday, which was largely in line with what Virginia has seen over the past week.
Northam also announced that the state will use $70 million in federal stimulus money to provide child care for the children of essential workers in Virginia, including first responders, healthcare providers, postal workers and people who work in grocery stores. The money will allow the state to assist child care centers that have remained open and to prepare schools to act as emergency child care centers.
On Monday, researchers with the University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute said initial data suggest that social distancing and other mitigation efforts have largely stalled the growth rate in new cases. Modeling prepared by the institute suggests the growth rate could continue to grow at a minimal rate if Northam’s stay-at-home order continues through its current June 10 deadline.
The same model shows that lifting those restrictions in mid-June would still result in a significant spike in cases in the summer, peaking in August. Other models show the outbreak will essentially end in June if social distancing measures remain in place through May.
“We need to be clear — things are not going back exactly like they were before. Together we will figure out how to build a new normal,” Northam said.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up within weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and death. The vast majority of people recover.
Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.