Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) issued a stay-at-home order Monday as cases of the coronavirus rise nationwide.
Northam said people should only leave their homes to obtain food, supplies or medical care, or for exercise. All gatherings of more than 10 people are banned.
“I want to be clear: Do not go out unless you need to go out. This is very different than wanting to go out,” he said.
“This has been a suggestion to Virginians. Today, it’s an order,” he added.
I’m making an important announcement about our efforts to mitigate the spread of #COVID19 in Virginia and save lives. Tune in now: https://t.co/5ALRWG2BZM
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) March 30, 2020
Northam said that the commonwealth’s beaches and other recreational areas were “literally packed” this weekend and that people were putting themselves and others at risk.
He addressed those who gathered at these locations directly: “You are being very, very selfish because you are putting all of us, especially our health care providers, at risk.”
The announcement comes hours after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) ordered similar restrictions, effective 8 p.m. Monday.
Northam’s executive order closed Virginia’s beaches to everything but exercising and fishing. Campgrounds have also been closed.
All higher education facilities were instructed to cease in-person classes.
Most colleges have already shut down in-person instruction, but last week the governor had criticized Liberty University’s reopening in Lynchburg after he banned gatherings of 10 people or more. Reports over the weekend indicated that more than a dozen Liberty students are sick with symptoms consistent with the coronavirus.
Northam said travel between private residencies was only permitted if it’s “essential.”
Following his previous executive order, all restaurants and nonessential retail stores may continue to stay open if they limit the number of people in a space to 10 or less. Restaurants are only permitted to do delivery, takeout and pickup.
Any person holding a gathering of 10 or more people can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor, through the governor’s previous executive order closing nonessential businesses.
Those who violate the cancelation of in-person college classes, the closure of public beaches or the cessation of short-term stays at campgrounds can also face these charges.
The governor said the goal is to reduce the expected medical surge in hospitals. Northam said the state currently has 18,500 beds, including 2,000 ICU beds.
As of Monday afternoon, Virginia has documented 1,020 confirmed cases of coronavirus, leading to 136 hospitalizations and 25 deaths. The state has tested more than 12,000 people.
Officials say the state is not yet at the point where it can give a test to everyone who wants one because of supply shortages across the country.
Updated at 3:12 p.m.