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Virginia Issues ‘Stay-at-Home’ Order to Shut Down Beach Crowds During Pandemic

Maryland is enforcing the same policy

A man looks into a Sweetgreen in Fairfax that has stopped hosting dine-in customers

Referencing the disappointing site of packed Virginia beaches while the novel coronavirus continues to spread, Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday issued a “stay-at-home” order mandating that residents do not leave the house for nonessential purposes through June 10. Food services are deemed essential, so restaurants can continue to operate takeout and delivery.

Northam’s afternoon announcement came just a few hours after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan put the neighboring state under the same restrictions. As of Monday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser had yet to issue a “stay-at-home” order. She has consistently encouraged people to stay in their houses, however, and warned in a public address Monday that outbreak hasn’t yet reached its peak.

Virginia announced 130 new cases of COVID-19 and has reported 26 deaths.

A week earlier, on March 23, Northham ordered all restaurants to close their dining rooms for at least 30 days while allowing them to maintain takeout and delivery operations. The move brought Virginia in line with neighboring governments in D.C. and Maryland, which ordered similar dine-in bans a full week earlier.

Northam, who worked as a pediatric neurologist before running for office, had been criticized by restaurant owners and media for waiting to shut down dining rooms. On Tuesday, March 17, the governor implemented an emergency gathering policy that imposed a 10-person limit for customers eating inside restaurants.

Northam also announced Virginia public schools would be closed for the remainder of the academic year.

Earlier that day, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan escalated the response in his state, shutting down all “nonessential businesses” and calling for residents to stay in their homes.

Bowser announced Friday that D.C.’s dining restrictions would go on through Saturday, April 25.

Takeout and delivery services have proliferated across the area, but several high-profile restaurant owners have said even engaging with customers that way is too risky for public health.

Update Monday, March 30, 2:28 p.m. This story was updated to reflect Virginia’s latest emergency policy for limiting the spread of the novel coronavirus