The day after Gov. Ralph Northam, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Washington, DC Mayor Murial Bowser issued executive orders requiring or encouraging residents to stay at home, chief elected officials across the Northern Virginia region including Loudoun County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) issued a joint statement asking the same.
“As the chief elected officials of local governments in the National Capital Region, we are joining in one voice to implore each of the more than five and a half million individuals in our region to stay home unless you are performing an essential activity as permitted by authorities,” the statement reads. “This is the most important thing each of us can do to stop the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the threat to our most vulnerable neighbors, including older individuals and those with chronic health conditions.”
Northam’s order stops short of the measures put in place by Hogan and Bowser. While violating some parts of the Virginia governor’s executive order is considered a misdemeanor, nonessential travel is not included. Under two COVID-19 related executive orders enacted so far, there is no penalty for making unnecessary trips.
In DC, violating Bowser’s order to stay at home unless necessary is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and up to 90 days in prison. In Maryland, violating Hogan’s order is also a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $5,000 and a year in prison.
Similarly, Bowser and Hogan have ordered non-essential businesses to close; in Virginia, they may remain open if they observe social distancing guidelines, and restaurants providing carry-out service and retailers limiting access to up to 10 people may remain open.
Only gatherings of 10 or more people are subject to criminal penalty, a Class 1 misdemeanor. Earlier orders also closed entertainment venues and the dining areas of restaurants, as well as beginning 10-patron limit in businesses considered non-essential.
Even those precautions are only meant to slow, not stop, the virus. According to figures released Tuesday, as of Monday evening, there were 87 reported cases of COVID-19 in Loudoun and 1,250 across the state, a jump of 26 in Loudoun and 230 in Virginia from the day before. A week before, there had only been 18 reported cases in Loudoun and 290 in Virginia. Those numbers lag the actual number of people currently infected with the virus, which is unknown due to limited testing and the gap of time—up to weeks—between when a person is first exposed and when doctors get a test result.
And the virus is taking its toll—not only in businesses closed and plans disrupted, but in lives lost. Across Virginia, 27 people had died as of Monday evening. Seven were in Northern Virginia. Two in Loudoun were both elderly, including a resident at a retirement community.
“Any place where people are residential in one way or another, whether seniors or health-based residential, we are starting to see those really throughout the region,” said Loudon County Health Department Director Dr. David Goodfriend. “And so we’re not seeing in more or less in Loudoun County, but it is something over the last week or so, and that’s really our top priority, is how do we limit those outbreaks in facilities that cater to high-risk folks.”
“The COVID-19 virus ignores jurisdictional boundaries, political viewpoints, and socioeconomic differences,” the joint statement reads. “We must be united as one region while we each do our part to protect ourselves and each other. Staying home, practicing social distancing and avoiding gatherings, washing hands frequently, disinfecting surfaces regularly, and staying away from others when sick are simple but vitally important ways to keep each other safe. Please join us in this most critical fight.”