Schools closed for rest of year; restaurants closed

Governor Ralph Northam today ordered all K-12 schools to close for the rest of this academic year as the state ramps up measures to fight the coronavirus.

Speaking at a press briefing on March 23, he ordered restaurants to close their dining rooms, effective at midnight tomorrow, though they can continue providing take-out and curbside and delivery service.

Other businesses are also ordered to shut their doors unless they qualify as "essential." Angela Navarro, deputy secretary of commerce and trade, said those deemed non-essential include restaurants, recreational or entertainment-related businesses and retail stores, although the latter can stay open if they can find a way to maintain social distancing measures. 

Personal care businesses including barber shops and beauty salons are considered non-essential. The order does not restrict business owners who want to provide these services in their homes.

Certain businesses such as grocery stores, banks and pharmacies qualify as essential and will continue to operate.

"Social distancing is the only path forward," Northam said. "The point is to limit places where people gather in groups. That's why I'm closing businesses and our schools. We have to save lives. We must put aside what we want and replace it with what we need."

Beyond the restrictions on businesses, Northam ordered a ban on all gatherings of more than 10 people.

The governor's order is in effect until April 23, meaning the restrictions on businesses could be changed one month from now.

The governor asked public school divisions to help provide child care for essential personnel such as health care workers and emergency services responders. He said the state Department of Social Services will provide guidance on how to do this.

James Lane, the state's superintendent of schools, said local school divisions will be issued guidance on how to address education needs. He said one possibility will be for school divisions to extend the length of the 2020-2021 academic year.

As of March 21 two cases of coronavirus had been confirmed in Louisa County, according to the Thomas Jefferson Health District.

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