In what has become a recurring trend throughout the Northam administration, the Governor handed down yet another overreaching executive order last Friday in the least transparent fashion imaginable.
The following restrictions went into effect at midnight on Monday, November 16:
- Reduction in public and private gatherings: All public and private in-person gatherings must be limited to 25 individuals, down from the current cap of 250 people. This includes outdoor and indoor settings. This limit does not affect schools, churches, capacity at businesses and offices.
- Expansion of mask mandate: All Virginians aged five and over are required to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces. This expands the current mask mandate, which has been in place in Virginia since May 29 and requires all individuals aged 10 and over to wear face coverings in indoor public settings.
- Strengthened enforcement within essential retail businesses: All essential retail businesses, including grocery stores and pharmacies, must adhere to statewide guidelines for physical distancing, wearing face coverings, and enhanced cleaning. Violations will now be enforceable through the Virginia Department of Health as a Class One misdemeanor.
- On-site alcohol curfew: The on-site sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol is prohibited after 10:00 p.m. in any restaurant, dining establishment, food court, brewery, microbrewery, distillery, winery, or tasting room. All restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, and tasting rooms must close by midnight.
This latest executive order comes in response to a recent rise in daily COVID-19 cases — despite Virginia’s case count per capita and positivity rate actually remaining comparatively low. As with most of Northam’s executive orders amid this pandemic, the substance of it is certainly questionable.
The Governor’s right-hand-man in Richmond, Mayor Levar Stoney, referred to the executive order as a “responsible, data-driven decision.” However, the data actually tells us transmission rates for young children with COVID-19 are little to none. So, forcing 5-9 year olds to wear masks will likely do little to save Virginia from the coronavirus — so much for a “data-driven decision.”
Northam’s massive reduction in maximum gathering sizes from 250 to 25 appears fairly ambiguous, likely because saying “this is actually about restricting your Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings,” sounds a little too tyrannical.
More befuddling is Northam’s aim to limit holiday gatherings for Virginia families while thousands of people march and protest in the streets, setting up a more obvious — and less overreaching — double standard for controlling the spread.
What is even more concerning than the content of the executive order is the lack of transparency in its release. Without immediately releasing the order itself, Northam took to YouTube to make his latest announcement, bypassing any press conference and leaving Virginian’s incredibly confused.
It took a course of continuous “major clarifications” from the Governor’s communication team to explain to Virginia citizens what exactly the new restrictions consisted of — and people are still largely uncertain.
For most leaders, such a lack of transparency would come as a major shock. For this Governor, it is hardly a surprise. Still today, the Governor has taken no questions on the matter, likely because it would be difficult to answer with an order this restrictive and ambiguous.