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Northam announces curfew, other restrictions amid pandemic

December 10, 2020 GMT
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam addresses the public and the media while giving new restriction orders for Virginians dealing with the coronavirus during a press conference at the Patrick Henry Building in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)
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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam addresses the public and the media while giving new restriction orders for Virginians dealing with the coronavirus during a press conference at the Patrick Henry Building in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)
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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam addresses the public and the media while giving new restriction orders for Virginians dealing with the coronavirus during a press conference at the Patrick Henry Building in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Gov. Ralph Northam announced new measures to combat the coronavirus Thursday that include a stricter mask mandate and a curfew that will requires most Virginians to stay at home between midnight and 5 a.m.

The executive order is set to take effect on Monday and will also reduce the state’s cap on public gatherings from 25 people to 10. Northam is expanding the state’s longstanding mask requirements to include outdoor areas where social distancing isn’t possible and all indoor areas shared with others, except for households. The current mask mandate requires only that masks be worn in indoor public settings.

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The modified stay-at-home order will have some exceptions, including for Virginians traveling to work and seeking medical attention. The mask mandate does not apply to children under five. The executive order will be in place through the end of January.

Asked why he chose midnight to 5.a.m for a curfew, Northam said it was “common sense.”

“I’ll also say something that my parents taught me when I was younger, and that is nothing good happens after midnight,” Northam said at a news conference.

He added that the state will be stepping up enforcement efforts against businesses that “flout” coronavirus-related restrictions.

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Republican lawmakers blasted the Democratic governor’s new restrictions, saying they were unnecessary and heavy-handed.

“The imposition of a statewide curfew smacks of martial law,” Virginia Senate Republicans said in a statement.

And business groups also said the curfew will hurt retail stores and restaurants that are already struggling during the pandemic.

“Continued restrictions will only increase the likelihood more and more small businesses will not survive,” said Nicole Riley, state director for the National Federation of Independent Business.

Northam’s directive aims to slow the spread of the coronavirus at a time when the state, like much of the country, is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases. Virginia is faring better than many other states, but has reported more than 3,000 daily cases in recent days and it’s total coronavirus-related death count stands at more than 4,300.

Hospitals in the state’s southwest have struggled with capacity after seeing a sharp rise in cases and some school districts around the state have discontinued in-person learning.

Virginia officials said last week they expect to receive enough vaccine doses by the year’s end to begin inoculating nearly all of its health care workers and long-term care facility residents — if two COVID-19 vaccine candidates receive authorization from federal regulators.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal. The vast majority of people recover.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.