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Stay at home enforcement explained

State and local law enforcement explained how they will be addressing violations of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s Executive Order 53 and Executive Order 55 directives.

Executive Order 55 brought the stay-at-home order, and Executive Order 53 included a directive that closed K-12 schools and businesses deemed non-essential and a directive that prohibited all public and private in-person gatherings of 10 or more individuals, among other mandates.

“Governor Northam has directed state and local law enforcement to initially address violations of the following Executive Order 53 and Executive Order 55 directives with education and warnings,” a Virginia State Police (VSP) press release stated. “Persistent violation of these Executive Order (EO) directives can result in individual(s) or business being charged with a class one misdemeanor, which carries up to a year in jail and $2,500 fine.”

The release then listed the EO directives referred to:

  • Prohibition of all public and private in-person, indoor and outdoor gatherings of more than 10 individuals — with the exception of the operation of businesses not required to close under EO 53 and the gathering of family members living in the same residence;
  • Closure of all dining and congregation areas in restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms and farmers markets;
  • Any brick-and-mortar retail business (not listed in paragraph five of EO 53) failing to limit all in-person shopping to no more than 10 patrons per establishment. If any such business cannot adhere to the 10-patron limit with proper social distancing requirements, it must close.
  • Closure of all public access to recreational and entertainment businesses;
  • Closure of public beaches for all activity, except for exercising and fishing;
  • Cancellation of in-person classes and instruction at institutions of higher education;
  • Cessation of all reservations for overnight stays of less than 14 nights at all privately owned campgrounds

VSP have been and will continue to assess Virginia EO violations on a case-by-case basis, the release noted.

“State police are required to uphold the laws of the commonwealth and will continue to have a visible presence within our communities and on the roads for the safety of those living, working and traveling in Virginia,” VSP Public Relations Director Corinne N. Geller stated in the release.

However, she made a point to note that the law still requires law enforcement to have reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop on a vehicle.

“Virginia State Police will not be making random traffic stops on vehicles nor conducting checkpoints to determine if a driver is traveling for a permissible reason, as granted by EO 53 and EO 55,” Geller stated in the release.

The release went on to highlight the current governor’s Executive Orders related to COVID-19:

  • Do not require an individual to carry documentation related to one’s purpose of travel;
  • Do not close Virginia roads/interstates to Virginia residents;
  • Do not restrict non-Virginia residents from traveling into and/or through Virginia;
  • Do not prevent Virginians from traveling out of the state. State police do encourage any Virginian(s) traveling out of state to check, in advance, the other state(s) for any travel restrictions in effect for that state(s). Northam has advised Virginians returning from out-of-state and/or international travel to self-quarantine for at least 14 days.

State troopers, for their personal protection and for the safety of the public, are minimizing their direct contact with the public, the release noted. All department recruitment events, public presentations, training, ceremonies, etc. have all been canceled or postponed through June 10.

The VSP release concluded by stating that those with any additional questions related to the statewide stay-at-home order should go to www.virginia.gov/coronavirus/faq.