"I want to be clear: Do not go out unless you need to go out. This is very different than wanting to go out,” Governor Northam announced in a press briefing. "This has been a suggestion to Virginians. Today, it’s an order."

On Monday, March 30, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued a "stay-at-home" order for all state residents. The ruling remains in place until June 10 unless otherwise noted.

You can leave your house to go get food, take care of sick relatives, get help for your family, or drive back and forth from work (if applicable). As of Monday night (March 30), Virginia has 1,020 confirmed cases of coronavirus (the day before, the number stood at 890), which has led to 136 hospitalizations and 25 deaths so far. Northam said the state currently has 18,500 hospital beds, including 2,000 ICU beds, available (which could be a far cry from enough). So the governor says, stay at home.

What is a stay-at-home order?

  • "A stay-at-home order is an order from an authority to restrict movements of populations as a mass quarantine strategy for suppressing or mitigating an epidemic or pandemic by ordering residents to stay home except for essential tasks or going to work in essential businesses." Wikipedia

When am I allowed to leave my house?

  • To get food or snacks (as permitted under Executive Action 53)
  • To go to the doctor, the hospital, or to get health services
  • To get help from the police, or to get help with food/housing/essential services
  • To take care of other people/animals/family members
  • To get child care, visitation, or facilitate custody arrangements ("Traveling required by court order or to facilitate child custody, visitation, or child care")
  • To go outside, so long as you stay 6 feet away from other people around you
  • To drive back & forth from work or from a place of worship
  • To drive back & forth from school
  • To volunteer for a charitable organization
  • To leave due to fear for your health or safety "at the direction of law enforcement, or at the direction of another government agency"

What happens if I just don't follow it?

  • You can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor and face up to $2,500 in fines.

Are they actually going to enforce it?

  • Yes. According to Richmond mayor Levar Stoney as reported by NBC12, law enforcement officers re ready to enforce social distancing policies. A statement indicated police will handle violations like this:
    • 1st Complaint: Will ID you, record the event in an offense report, and educate you about the law and what you're not allowed to do. This includes providing you with a copy of the order so you remember what's okay and what's not, so you don't violate it again.
    • 2nd Complaint: Will warn you that continued violation will result in charges of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Will document the event in an offense report as a second violation.
    • 3rd Complaint: Will consult supervision and officially pursue criminal charges if appropriate

Where can I read the official text?

I don't want to read the official text. Just tell me what it says real quick.

  • No gatherings of more than 10 individuals. This includes restaurants, religious services, social events, and parties; except for:
    • Operations of businesses indicated below
    • People who live in the same house as you
  • This order may NOT prohibit [the following] from performing the duties of their job:
    • Medical workers
    • Members of the press
    • Food banks and housing aid workers
    • Law enforcement officers
    • Essential government workers
  • Colleges must cancel all in-person classes
  • Public beaches are closed, except for exercising or fishing
  • You can go outside, but you must stay 6 feet away from other people, and you can't have gatherings of 10 or more people inside or outside
  • You can leave your house for [see reasons listed above]

Which businesses are closed "to public access"?

  • Theaters, performing arts centers, concert venues, museums, and other indoor entertainment centers
    • Ex: AMC Theaters, The Byrd, The National, the VMFA
  • Fitness centers, gymnasiums, recreation centers, indoor sports facilities, and indoor exercise facilities
    • Ex: The YMCA, Gold's Gym, etc.
  • Beauty salons, barbershops, spas, massage parlors, tanning salons, tattoo shops, and any other location where personal care or personal grooming services are performed that would not allow compliance with social distancing guidelines to remain six feet apart
    • Ex: Supercuts, Massage Envy, etc.
  • Racetracks and historic horse racing facilities
    • I don't know anything about these to be honest
  • Bowling alleys, skating rinks, arcades, amusement parks, trampoline parks, fairs, arts and craft facilities, aquariums, zoos, escape rooms, indoor shooting ranges, public and private social clubs, and all other places of indoor public amusement
    • Pretty self-explanatory
  • Public dining areas in restaurants, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, wineries, tasting rooms, and farmers' markets
    • Pretty self-explanatory also

Can I go to my friend's house?

  • You can only travel between private residences (even to your friends') if it is absolutely "essential."

How long will the stay-at-home order be in effect?

  • Until June 10, unless stated otherwise.

Which states are currently under stay-at-home orders?

  • As of Monday, March 30, at least 253 million people in 30 states. You can find an updated list here.


Honestly, there's nothing cool about this situation. But if we have to inconvenience ourselves slightly and be super-bored so that other people won't die, that seems like a pretty straightforward choice—even if it's boring, and even if it's the hard thing to do. 

We haven't seen this kind of destruction on the homefront in our lifetimes, or our parents' lifetimes. We have always had vaccines, modern medicine, and an excellent healthcare system—in this way, we're almost victims of our own success. During the 1918 Spanish flu, a pandemic that killed a large percentage of the population, people died from diseases all the time. So when someone was told to self-quarantine, they knew exactly what it meant, and they knew exactly what would happen if you didn't.

This is new for us. But we're going to have to trust medical professionals and decide to act like a community, not individuals each fending for ourselves, making a stance against society. It's just not the time. Viruses don't care if you're a C-suite executive or a cashier, if you're a Republican or a Democrat, if you're an alcoholic sleeping on the sidewalk or the pastor of a church—in that way, disease is a great equalizer. The coronavirus doesn't want your freedoms; it just wants your cells.

What helps you survive stay-at-home orders, self-quarantine, or social distancing? Let us know how you're surviving.