State closes businesses, bans small groups
Gov. Ralph Northam has dramatically tightened restrictions on public activities that could contribute to the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
In a Monday afternoon press conference, the governor announced that all Virginia schools will remain closed at least through the end of this academic year.
Also, the governor signed an executive order stating that effective at midnight Tuesday:
• Restaurants, wineries, breweries and other dining/beverage establishments will be limited to carry out, curbside or delivery service.
• Recreation and entertainment facilities must close, including theaters, performing arts centers, museums and other indoor facilities.
• Personal care service businesses that cannot maintain social distancing practices must close, including hair cutting/styling businesses, spas, massage facilities, tanning salons, tattoo shops and others.
• Fitness centers, gyms, recreation centers and other indoor sports and recreation facilities must close.
• Indoor public amusement facilities must close, including bowling alleys, skating rinks, arcades, amusement parks, trampoline parks, fairs, arts and crafts facilities, aquariums, zoos, escape rooms, indoor shooting ranges, social clubs and others.
• Many “nonessential” brick-and-mortar retail facilities will be limited to 10 patrons or fewer at a time, with requirements that individuals stay at least six feet apart.
• Essential services such as grocery stores, health facilities and supply chain businesses will stay open, with strict social distancing and cleaning/sanitation requirements.
• Public gatherings of 10 or more people are banned, except for those involving health care, low-income access to essential services, news media operations and government/law enforcement.
The order will stay in effect for at least 30 days, Northam said.
“We must put aside what we want and replace it with what we need,” the governor said. “This will require everyone to sacrifice.”
A reporter asked the governor to clarify the public gathering ban. Northam said state and local law enforcement agencies “will be making the rounds” and stopping at too-large gatherings to remind people to disperse.
The governor said that as of noon Monday, Virginia had recorded 254 proven cases of virus infection and six deaths. About 3,700 Virginians have been tested so far, he added.
The governor announced late last week these additional government actions:
• HEALTH CARE: Working with the Department of Medicaid Assistance Services, Northam is increasing access for 1.5 million Medicaid members and thousands of low-income residents by eliminating all co-payments for services covered by Medicaid and Family Access to Medical Insurance Security (FAMIS), including COVID-19-related treatment; ensuring Medicaid members do not lose coverage due to lapses in paperwork or a change in circumstances; permitting Medicaid members to obtain a 90-day supply of many routine prescriptions; waiving pre-approval requirements for many critical medical services, and enacting automatic extensions for approvals that are already in place; expanding access to telehealth services, including allowing Medicaid reimbursement for providers who use telehealth with patients in the home.
• CHILD CARE: Northam ordered a modification of the state’s child care subsidy program, which serves 25,000 children, by expanding eligibility for school-aged children currently designated for part-day care to full-day care; increasing the number of paid absences from 36 to 76 days for level 1 and level 2 providers; automatically extending eligibility for families due for eligibility redetermination in the near future by two months and temporarily suspending the requirement for face-to-face interviews.
• SMALL BUSINESS: Following a March 18 request by state government, the U.S. Small Business Administration approved an economic injury disaster loan declaration for Virginia. Small businesses and nonprofit organizations throughout the commonwealth affected by the COVID-19 public health crisis can apply for low-interest federal disaster loans of up to $2 million from the SBA to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other expenses. To submit a loan application through the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, visit disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/.
• INCOME TAXES: Northam asked the state taxation department to extend the due date for Virginia income taxes to June 1.
• CORRECTIONS: The state corrections department has suspended in-person visits, and has suspended transfers from local and regional jails for 30 days. Northam also encouraged local criminal justice officials to allow sentence modifications that could reduce jail populations; divert offenders from being put in jail before trial; and look at ways to reduce low-risk offenders who are being held without bail in jails.
• VEHICLES: Northam directed state police to suspend enforcement of vehicle safety inspections for 60 days.
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