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Northam bans special gatherings of 100 or more statewide

Virginia Gov. Ralph S. Northam confirmed during a Sunday afternoon, March 15, press conference that a statewide ban on special public events of more than 100 people is now in effect in an effort to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

“As of this morning, Virginia has 45 people who have tested positive for the coronavirus,” he said during the press conference. “Yesterday, Virginia also had our first death from this virus — a man in his 70s in the Peninsula Health District.”

He said the Peninsula Health District, which serves Newport News, Poquoson, Williamsburg, James City County and York County, has a cluster of cases  — eight as of last count. For that reason, he and his administration are taking additional steps to limit contact between all Virginians in order to limit the spread of the virus.

“Earlier today, we announced a ban on special public events over 100 people statewide,” he said. “It’s just not a good idea for that many people to be close to each other right now. We ask people to use common sense.”

He said this ban applies to special events that bring together more than 100 people in a single room or a single confined space at the same time without room to spread out. 

“It (applies to) events outside the normal course of daily life — parades or festivals, gatherings in auditoriums, stadiums or conferences,” he said.

He noted the ban does not apply to normal operations at airports, offices, hospitals, restaurants, grocery stores or other retail establishments.

“What we are trying to achieve here is the kind of social distancing that experts tell us is critical to stopping the spread of the virus,” he said. “We all want to end this pandemic, and everything we hear from the experts tells us that slowing its spread is critical to keeping more Virginians healthy and ensuring what we do does not overload our healthcare system.”

He said he urges Virginians, particularly those in places where there are known outbreaks, such as the peninsula, to please stay home. 

A Longwood University student received a presumptive positive test result for the coronavirus Wednesday, March 11. Two students who shared living space with that student were quarantined, but their tests have since come back negative, meaning there is still only one reported case of the virus in the area.

“If you’re going to a crowded bar or a large church full of people, I would urge you to rethink those plans,” Northam said. “Ask yourself if it’s really that important that you go out right now. Social distancing now can save lives later.”