Unannounced inspections that enforce safety guidelines at restaurants and businesses are on the table as cases increase in Hampton Roads.
COVID-19 in Virginia has mainly been under control, but a recent uptick in the Hampton Roads region is inspiring lawmakers to beef up their initial pandemic response.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Governor Ralph Northam outlined stricter enforcement of the CDC guidelines to curb the virus's spread. To start, the Virginia Department of Health is planning to deploy an additional 100 inspectors to monitor businesses for enforcing guidelines like social distancing and wearing face masks. Currently, they have 500 members who conduct these inspections unannounced.
“If we don’t take this seriously now, we could see bigger increases across the Commonwealth,” Northam said. “It’s clear that step one is stronger enforcement of the existing regulations.”
Today, I updated Virginians on our continued response to #COVID19. Case counts remain largely stable in the majority of Virginia's health regions—and cases are dramatically down in Northern Virginia, where two thirds of Virginians live. pic.twitter.com/rYxuHOcrmd— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) July 15, 2020
While daily averages in Virginia have waned, areas like Hampton Roads have experienced the state's highest surges; an average of 347 new cases have been recorded as of Tuesday. According to the VDH, the positive infection rate has increased to 10 percent within the last three weeks.
The governor didn't mince words when he noted civic penalties were a possibility for not following the rules. He warned that restaurants and businesses that don't comply with the rules could lose their licenses and then urged businesses to stand firm on guidelines if customers refuse to follow them. "It should be no shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service," he said, echoing the famous phrase seen in business storefronts.
The @VDHCommissioner will be dispatching another 100 or so inspectors to aid stricter enforcement of social distancing guidelines in Hampton Roads. "Your license will be on the line" @GovernorVA says @WAVY_News pic.twitter.com/jTzuF2ASf5— Brett Hall (@BrettHNews) July 14, 2020
In addition, public gatherings, which are currently allotted to 250 guests under Phase Three, could be reduced to 50, while restaurants may have a reduced curfew on conducting alcohol sales. These restrictions, the governor noted, may be implemented in the "hot spots" as opposed to the entire state, should the cases continue to climb.
“This is about our health and our wellbeing,” he said. “It’s going to take all of us to move forward safely.”
As of July 15, the state of Virginia has 73,527 total cases.
What do you think of Governor Northam's response to the pandemic? Should there be other guidelines enforced? Sound off in the comments!