Virginia will increase unannounced checks of whether bars and restaurants are following coronavirus-related rules as people socializing without face masks appear to be spreading the virus. Officials say people in their 20s are particularly to blame.
Increased enforcement will be focused in the Hampton Roads area of the state, where cases are surging, but occur statewide, Gov. Ralph Northam said at a news conference Tuesday.
“If you own a restaurant or a business and you’re not following the regulations, your license will be on the line,” he warned.
Northern Virginia has two-thirds of the state’s population but cases there are down dramatically, the governor said. The positivity rate is 6.7%. In the state’s eastern region, community spread is substantial and the positivity rate is more than 10%. This figure measures the portion of people tested for the virus who test positive.
Many people in their 20s are flouting the rules and getting themselves and others sick, officials said. Some will die and spread the virus to loved ones who are more vulnerable, State Health Commissioner Dr. Norm Oliver said.
The governor asked businesses to step up their own enforcement. If someone’s not wearing a mask, they shouldn’t be allowed inside.
“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,’” Northam said.
Business owners can ask people without masks to leave, tell them they’re trespassing if they don’t leave and call the police, he said.
The guidance comes after several business owners in the D.C. area and nationally have reported being attacked after they asked customers to wear masks. Earlier this month in Old Town Alexandria, a customer spat at the owner of a coffee shop and vandalized the business after she offered him a mask.
The governor stopped short of bringing back tougher restrictions, which he said Friday that he would do if necessary. On Tuesday, he urged residents to follow the rules to protect each other.
“There is nothing to slow this down other than us until we get a vaccination,” he said.