Charlottesville and Albemarle County will impose new limits on the public in an attempt to prevent further spread of coronavirus.
Masks will now be required in all public places and business at restaurants and tasting rooms will be restricted.
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors met at 3 p.m. Monday. Charlottesville City Council met at 4, and it took less than an hour for all to agree that new limits were needed.
Council member Michael Payne said the return of UVA students in August made stricter rules necessary. "Nothing would be worse for the economy than for UVA students coming back to be a super spreader event," Payne said.
So beginning August 1st, everyone will be required to wear a mask in public except kids ten and under, people with a doctor’s note indicating a medical reason why they can’t and those out for exercise who keep six feet away from others. People exercising outside will not be required to wear a mask as long as they are six feet away from others.
Council Lloyd Snook said he was sympathetic to local businesses over a new requirement that indoor seating be limited to no more than 50% of legal occupancy but argued that wasn’t much different from the current state law that requires six feet of separation for tables, and he noted, the 50% rule would be easier to enforce at bars. "You can have all the limits on you want on where the chairs and tables are set up," Snook said, "but people aren’t sitting at the tables anyway in a lot of cases."
The city ordinance makes clear that spontaneous demonstrations are exempt from a third requirement limiting attendance and special events to 50 people. So are weddings and religious services.
Those who violate the new rules could be subject to fines, but the city specified it would not impose jail terms and insisted that warnings be issued before anyone is cited for breaking the new law.
The county said it would form an ambassador’s program with staff trained to educate and remind the public of new rules, and it plans a signage program to inform people that face-coverings are required by local ordinance. In situations where people refuse to comply, fines can be imposed.
The new rules will likely be in place for at least 60 days.
Over the weekend, Governor Ralph Northam said state officials would be watching the COVID-19 numbers and trends closely. If they did not come down, Northam said additional steps might be coming from the state.
Virginia saw more than 1,500 new COVID-19 infections reported on Monday, the highest since May 26th and the second-highest since the crisis began. Several local health districts, including those in the Lynchburg, Danville, Henrico areas as well as the Lenowisco district in southwest corner of the state all saw new highs for single-day reported COVID-19 cases.
A briefing on Virginia's COVID-19 response is now scheduled for 2:00 Tuesday afternoon.