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New statewide COVID-19 measures take effect

New statewide measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 went into effect Monday amid a surge in the virus in states across the country and concern over holiday gatherings.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced the new actions on Friday, which included decreasing public and private in-person gatherings, as well as strengthened enforcement of the statewide mask mandate.

While the state’s case count per capita and positivity rate remain comparatively low, all five health regions are experiencing increases in new COVID-19 cases, positive tests, and hospitalizations, Northam said during Friday’s announcement.

The following measures took effect Monday:

—Reduction in public and private gatherings: All public and private in-person gatherings must be limited to 25 individuals, down from the current cap of 250 people. This includes outdoor and indoor settings.

—Expansion of mask mandate: All Virginians aged five and over are required to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces. This expands the current mask mandate, which has been in place in Virginia since May 29 and requires all individuals aged 10 and over to wear face coverings in indoor public settings.

—Strengthened enforcement within essential retail businesses: All essential retail businesses, including grocery stores and pharmacies, must adhere to statewide guidelines for physical distancing, wearing face coverings, and enhanced cleaning. While certain essential retail businesses have been required to adhere to these regulations as a best practice, violations will now be enforceable through the Virginia Department of Health as a Class One misdemeanor.

—On-site alcohol curfew: The on-site sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol is prohibited after 10 p.m. in any restaurant, dining establishment, food court, brewery, microbrewery, distillery, winery or tasting room. All restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries and tasting rooms must close by midnight. Virginia law does not distinguish between restaurants and bars; however, under current restrictions, individuals that choose to consume alcohol prior to 10 p.m. must be served as in a restaurant and remain seated at tables six feet apart.

Virginia is averaging 1,500 newly-reported COVID-19 cases per day, up from a statewide peak of approximately 1,200 in May, according to the governor’s announcement. While Southwest Virginia has experienced a spike in the number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases, all five of the commonwealth’s health regions are currently reporting a positivity rate over 5 percent. Although hospital capacity remains stable, hospitalizations have increased statewide by more than 35 percent in the last four weeks.

For information about COVID-19 in Virginia, visit