Across Virginia

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Gov. Ralph Northam is ordering that Virginians wear masks while in public indoor spaces, saying the measure is needed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Northam said at a news conference Tuesday that he’s ordering masks be worn starting Friday inside all retail stores, while using public transportation, and in any other indoor places where people congregate.

“This is about protecting those around us, especially our workers,” Northam said. WFIR’s Evan Jones has more:

05-27 Face Coverings Wrap-WEB

Northam joins governors in several other states, including neighboring Maryland, who have issued similar requirements.

“This is not about punishing people,” Northam said. “That’s not what we’re going to do here. We’re trying to promote safety.”

But Republican lawmakers decried the order, saying it places unfair mandates on business owners. Senate Republicans issued a statement saying Northam’s mask order should instead be a voluntary recommendation.

“Virginians are responsible and sufficiently informed to make these determinations for themselves without coercive threats from their leaders,” the statement said.

Prior to the governor’s announcement, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police said law enforcement agencies do not have the resources to place officers at the entrance to every business to enforce the mandatory mask order.

Executive Director Dana Schrad said in a letter to the governor it will be largely up to the business and its untrained employees to confront someone who isn’t wearing a mask, potentially leading to violence. She cited a case in Michigan, where three people were charged earlier this month in the fatal shooting of a security guard after a confrontation over a woman who was not wearing a face mask in a Family Dollar store.

The governor’s mask-wearing order exempts people who are eating and drinking, children under the age of 10, and people with health conditions that make wearing a mask dangerous.

Northam also addressed criticism he’s taken for not wearing a mask while posing for photographs alongside residents during a weekend beach visit. The governor said he was visiting Virginia Beach to see how its reopening was going and left his mask in his vehicle because he wasn’t planning on posing for pictures. He pledged to be better prepared in the future and said he appreciated being held accountable.

Governor Northam says he takes full responsibility for not wearing a face mask over the weekend while visiting Virginia Beach. Northam said at today’s briefing he was not planning to meet with well-wishers as he arrived to monitor social distancing and meeting reporters, and he left his mask in the car – something he promises not to do again.

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Northam’s comments came shortly before directing all Virginians to wear face masks anywhere where people congregate indoors as of this Friday. There are some limited exceptions: eating, exercising, any overriding health condition and children under the age of 10. Northam says the masks are proving to be one of the most effective ways to limit the spread of COVID-19 from person to person.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — Gov. Ralph Northam has repeatedly urged Virginia residents to cover their faces in public during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Democrat didn’t heed his own plea when he posed mask-less for photographs alongside residents during a weekend beach visit.

A spokeswoman for the governor’s office said Sunday that Northam should have brought a face mask with him during his visit on Saturday to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, news outlets reported.

“He was outside yesterday and not expecting to be within six feet of anyone,” Northam spokesman Alena Yarmosky said in a statement. “This is an important reminder to always have face coverings in case situations change — we are all learning how to operate in this new normal, and it’s important to be prepared.”

“Wearing a mask could literally save someone else’s life,” he said last week, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Critics on social media chided Northam, a physician, for not practicing what he has preached.

“Physician, heal thyself,” tweeted Todd Gilbert, a Republican who is Virginia’s House Minority Leader.

The Virginian-Pilot reported that Northam posed for a selfie with a woman who said she knows the governor. She gave him a pat on the shoulder.

“We just have to continue to remind people that we want to keep the social distance of 6 feet apart,” he said, when asked about the touch later. “That’s a challenge for a lot of folks because they’re just not used to doing that.”

Virginia has more than 34,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,135 confirmed deaths as of Sunday, according to the state health department.

From Carter Bank& Trust: In alignment with its tradition of care, Carter Bank & Trust is donating $70,000 to food banks in communities throughout Virginia and North Carolina. This donation was allocated to fill a critical need for funding organizations focused on food security in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $70,000 disbursement will benefit nine food banks including: Feeding Southwest Virginia, Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, Inc., Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank, Feed More, Capital Area Food Bank, Food Bank of Central & Eastern NC, Second Harvest Food Bank of Southeast NC, Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina and Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC.

“At Carter Bank &Trust, we take great pride in caring for the customers and communities we serve. All of our communities have been severely impacted as a result of the COVID-19 virus and these donations are an example of us doing what we do best – caring,” says Litz H. Van Dyke, Chief Executive Officer, Carter Bank & Trust.

This significant charitable contribution is only a portion of a larger plan to give back to the communities that Carter Bank & Trust has the honor of serving. The funds will support each organization’s COVID-19 response and the specific food security gaps that exist in each community.

“We are so grateful to Carter Bank & Trust for their commitment to the communities we serve,” says Pamela Irvine, President, and CEO of Feeding Southwest Virginia – the first organization to receive the donation. “The funds come at an integral time as we deal with increased need and will allow us to serve more families throughout the duration of this pandemic.”

(Kaitlin McKeown/The Daily Press via AP)

Governor Northam said today those thinking about heading to the beach this Memorial Day weekend can do it in the Commonwealth – Virginia Beach and First Landing State Park beaches will both be open for swimming and sunbathing, with parking lots set at 50% capacity. No group sports or large gatherings will be allowed.

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Northam said he is counting on Virginians to “be responsible” over the holiday weekend if they want to see the ocean beaches remain open.

Northam’s decision follows a weekend at Virginia Beach when many people decided on their own to reopen the beachfront. (See photo at left.) Here is the story from Associated Press:

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — Warm weather drew crowds to the Virginia Beach oceanfront even though the beach is considered closed under the state’s stay-at-home directives.

Families ordered snow cones, bought hermit crabs and cramped gift shops while bikers pedaled on the boardwalk on Saturday, the Virginian-Pilot reported. Tents, umbrellas and beach blankets were set up near the water.

Under Gov. Ralph Northam’s first phase of a gradual reopening plan, retail stores are reopening with limited capacity, but indoor gyms remain closed, beaches are still off-limits and restaurants cannot provide indoor dine-in service. No restrictions have been lifted in northern Virginia, Richmond and Accomack County, which were granted two-week delays after local officials said it was too early to move forward.

The newspaper reported the beach was not jammed and groups maintained their distance. Many people on the boardwalk wore masks.

Kayla Thomas and a co-worker had masks and gloves on while they served scones at an oceanfront concession stand. Thomas said the crowds looked like those she might see at the beginning of summer.

“I’m just shocked by the amount of people,” Thomas said.

Northam earlier this week said he based his decision to reopen on positive trends in key metrics related to the virus’s spread, like hospital readiness and testing capacity. He stressed repeatedly that the process will be slow.

Beauty parlors and barber shops will be by appointment and will be able to operate only if both employees and customers wear masks. Entertainment venues, like theme parks and bowling alleys, will stay closed.



DMV photo

Virginia’s DMV will start reopening some of its offices Monday – nine of them around the state, including Roanoke – and for those who must attend to business in person, those customer service centers are going to look a lot different. More from WFIR’s Evan Jones.

05-15 DMV Reopens Wrap-WEB

If you have a license or registration matter that can be handled on line or by mail, you are currently required to do it that way, but if you must attend to things in person, you must first make an appointment. In- person business will mainly involve title returns, people moving to Virginia from other states and first-time drivers licenses.

When you walk in to the Roanoke office, there are ten counters set up with plexiglass shields — and a single chair eight feet behind each one.

DMV officials expect to gradually equip and reopen all customer service center by the end of July.

This is the day many Virginia businesses can re-open, including hair salons and barbershops. But in many places, getting your hair cut will probably not resemble what you are used to.  Take the Hollins Barber Shop, where a lot has changed — like plastic dividers now between the five chairs and appointments for the first time ever. There is no waiting inside and no conversation that comes with it, something that Mike Hughes at Hollins says is often as important to customers as the haircut itself. WFIR’s Evan Jones has more:

05-15 Barbershops Wrap-WEB


The wait is almost over. Two days from now, most of Virginia will begin the process of re-opening many businesses, but state health officials say this is no time to think the COVID-19 threat is over and to let our guard down. They say while it is is a start that many retail businesses, hair and nail salons and restaurants open up again, it is anything but the finish. WFIR’s Evan Jones has more:

05-13 Getting Ready Wrap-WEB


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