Virginia will order closed all businesses that center around recreation and entertainment, like movie theaters and bowling alleys, while allowing other businesses to remain open under some restrictions.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced Monday that all businesses deemed non-essential by the state would be allowed to remain open as long as they follow sanitation guidelines and keep the number of patrons in their business under 10.
Essential businesses include grocery stores, pharmacies, medical facilities, manufacturing plants and distribution centers, as well as transportation hubs like airports, bus depots, and others.
The order is less strict than that announced Monday by officials in Maryland, where all non-essential businesses were ordered closed. Nevertheless, it represents the most stringent guidance from Virginia officials in the state’s fight to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Northam described the state’s approach as “very aggressive” and said he would continue to look at the data and reevaluate the state’s restrictions. Monday’s order will remain in place for at least 30 days.
At the same time, Northam said "social distancing is the only path forward," and acknowledged the impact of restrictions on Virginia businesses.
"We have an economic crisis, but the sooner that we can get this health crisis under control, the sooner our economy will recover,” Northam said.
Restaurants, while considered essential, will be allowed to stay open only for carry-out and delivery, per the order. Included in that category are breweries and bars.
Northam also addressed gatherings at state and local parks, which swelled during a spell of warmer weather last week.
Northam said parks will remain open, but he urged the public to maintain social distancing guidelines, which call for gatherings of fewer than 10 people in a concentrated area. He said local law enforcement officials were encouraged to issue reminders wherever gatherings grew past the limit.
“We're not out there to penalize people. We certainly are not out there to put people in jails,” Northam said. “But, we are working with our localities, and for example, if a person from the sheriff's department sees a congregation on the beach of 10 or more, they will be reminded that is not accepted.”
House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, said in a statement the administration should carry on with "their efforts to carefully balance the need to protect Virginians' health as well as their livelihoods."