Virginia restaurants, fitness centers, theaters ordered to close or reduce capacity to 10

Published 4:01 pm Tuesday, March 17, 2020

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On Tuesday, Gov. Ralph Northam announced additional steps to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which include a mandate for all restaurants, fitness centers and theaters to either close or reduce their capacity to 10 patrons.

Northam also told Virginians to avoid non-essential gatherings of more than 10 people, per federal guidelines. This does not include normal operations at essential services such as manufacturers, distribution centers, airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, grocery stores or pharmacies.

Restaurants are, however, encouraged to continue carry-out options.

The governor added that Virginians with chronic health conditions or age 65 or older should self-quarantine. Public health experts advise that individuals with underlying medical conditions and those age 65 or older are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Northam further encouraged neighbors and friends to stay in touch and check in with high-risk individuals.

The governor also announced the following actions to protect working Virginians impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak:

  • No waiting for unemployment benefits. Northam has directed the Commissioner of the Virginia Employment Commission to waive the one-week waiting period to ensure workers can receive benefits as soon as possible.
  • Enhanced eligibility for unemployment. Workers may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits if an employer needs to temporarily slow or cease operations due to COVID-19. Workers who have been issued a notice to self-quarantine by a medical or public health official and are not receiving paid sick or medical leave from their employer may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. Additionally, workers may be eligible if they must stay home to care for an ill family member and are not receiving paid family medical leave from their employer.
  • Fewer restrictions. For individuals receiving unemployment insurance, Northam is directing the Virginia Employment Commission to give affected workers special consideration on deadlines, mandatory re-employment appointments and work search requirements.

The Office of the Governor is providing a frequently asked questions guide, available at, for workers who have been temporarily laid off or discharged during this public health crisis.

The governor also announced the following support for impacted employers:

  • Regional workforce teams will be activated to support employers that slow or cease operations. Employers who do slow or cease operations will not be financially penalized for an increase in workers requesting unemployment benefits.
  • ┬áThe governor is authorizing rapid response funding through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act for employers eligible to remain open during this emergency. Funds may be used to clean facilities and support emergency needs.
  • Northam is directing all employers to follow U.S. Department of Labor guidance on workplace safety, which can be found at

Department of Motor Vehicles office closures

Virginia’s 75 DMV offices, as well as mobile units, will close to the public. Online services will remain available and anyone needing to renew a license or vehicle registration is encouraged to do so online.

For those who cannot renew online, or whose license or registration expires before May 15, the DMV will grant a 60-day extension.

Courts closed

On Monday, the Supreme Court of Virginia declared a judicial emergency in response to COVID-19 and suspended all non-essential, non-emergency court proceedings in all district and circuit courts through Monday, April 6, absent a specific exemption.

This includes a prohibition on new eviction cases for tenants who are unable to pay rent as a result of COVID-19. All non-exempted court deadlines are tolled and extended for a period of 21 days.


The State Corporation Commission issued an order on Monday directing utilities it regulates, such as electric, natural gas and water companies in Virginia, to suspend service disconnections for 60 days to provide immediate relief for any customer, residential or business, who may be financially impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

A complete list of all actions Northam has announced to combat COVID-19 in Virginia is available at