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Governor imposes curfew, further limits gatherings to curb COVID-19 surge

In an effort to curb a statewide COVID-19 surge, Gov. Ralph Northam announced he would impose a modified stay-at-home order with a midnight to 5 a.m. curfew and further restrict gatherings to just 10 people beginning Dec. 14 as well as tighten the mask mandate.

The measures will remain in place until at least Jan. 31 unless rescinded or amended.

“We need to start with some hard realities,” Northam said at his Dec. 10 briefing. “The case numbers in Virginia are still better than most of the rest of the country, but they’re not good anywhere, even here in Virginia.”

Northam said that unless people are commuting to and from work, they should stay at home between midnight and 5 a.m.

“If you don’t need to go out, go home,” Northam said. “This is just plain, common sense.”

Anyone indoors, including while at work, needs to wear a mask, he said, and anyone outside who cannot stay at least six feet apart from another person needs to wear a mask. The mask mandate includes anyone at least 5 years old.

Statewide, there were 54 deaths recorded Dec. 10, and the total dead from COVID-19 is at 4,355.

Also, Northam noted that no health district is below 5% in its seven-day positivity rate for COVID-19, and he cited an 80% rise in hospitalizations over the past four weeks as reasoning behind his latest order.

To stress the importance of his measures, he played a video record by an ICU worker from Ballad Health in Southwest Virginia, where cases have been higher than the rest of the state, to speak virtually.

“We’re losing more than we keep,” she said, adding, “I’ve put an ungodly amount of people in body bags.”

Northam, though, faced questions on whether a curfew when fewer people are out would be an effective means of tamping down the number of positive COVID-19 cases across the state, with more than 3,000 per day for the last five days, including a record 4,398 cases reported Dec. 9.

Gatherings, which had been at 25 people since his executive order announced Nov. 13, will now be limited to just 10 people.

“Cases went up, so we have taken that action,” Northam said.

This story will be updated.