Governor Northam orders schools, non-essential businesses to close


Radford’s superintendent issues statement to school families following announcement

RICHMOND — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued an executive order on Monday closing all K-12 schools statewide for the remainder of the academic year.

The order also closed certain non-essential businesses and banned all gatherings of more than 10 people, effective Tuesday, March 24 until 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, April 23.

“This is an unprecedented situation, and it requires unprecedented actions to protect public health and save lives,” said the governor. “I know the next several weeks will be difficult. These restrictions on non-essential businesses will create hardships on the businesses and employees affected. But they are necessary, and we do not undertake them lightly. I am calling on Virginians to sacrifice now, so that we can get through this together.”

Children wait at a bus stop for their free food pack, which includes breakfast and lunch food, and is being distributed by the Radford City Public School system.

Radford City Public Schools Superintendent Robert Graham said in an announcement Monday he and administrators are working to ensure the school community is supported during this time and faculty is working diligently to ensure there is a continuity plan in place.

“As announced by Governor Northam today, Radford City Public Schools, along with all Virginia schools, will remain closed for the remainder of this school year,” said Graham. “We understand that this decision will present challenges for our students and their families, and we remain committed to leveraging the district’s resources to support families through these challenging times. We will continue coming together to support each other as one district, one family.”

Graham said the district will keep delivering food to students as long as possible.

“I want to thank all of our staff and the Bobcat Backpack program who have worked tirelessly so our schools could provide meals and food to our students and families,” he said. “We will continue to provide this service for as long as we can.”

Graham said the school system is following the same format and schedule as it did last week for food distribution for the remainder of this week, and more guidance will follow in the coming days for the food distribution program.

“We recognize that there remain many issues to resolve such as graduation requirements, student verified credits, grades, continuity of learning and employee compensation,” Graham said. “The Virginia Department of Education and the district are working through these issues now, and we are committed to updating families and staff as soon as possible.”

Graham encouraged school families to “follow CDC recommendations and practice social distancing. “The challenges we will face in the days ahead are unprecedented, but not insurmountable,” he said.

According to the governor’s announcement, Virginia is launching a statewide media campaign to ensure Virginians fully understand their risk and do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19. The commonwealth’s “Health in Your Hands” campaign will include radio and television spots as well as statewide billboards and highway signs.

The statewide ban of all gatherings of more than 10 people does not include those that involve the provision of health care or medical services; access to essential services for low-income residents, such as food banks; operations of the media; law enforcement agencies or operations of government.

The order closing schools covers grade K through 12. The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) will issue guidance to help divisions execute plans to continue instruction while ensuring students are served equitably, regardless of income level, access to technology, English learner status or special needs.

This includes options for additional instruction through summer programming, integrating instruction into coursework next year and allowing students to make up content. VDOE will submit a waiver to the federal government to lift end-of-year testing requirements and is exploring options to waive state mandated tests.

Under the provisions of the executive order, the following recreation and entertainment businesses are considered non-essential and were closed to the public as of 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24:

Theaters, performing arts centers, concert venues, museums and other indoor entertainment centers.

Fitness centers, gymnasiums, recreation centers, indoor sports facilities and indoor exercise facilities.

Beauty salons, barber shops, 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.

Racetracks and historic horse racing facilities.

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.

All dining and congregation areas in the following establishments were closed to the public as of 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24. These establishments may continue to offer delivery and/or takeout services. They include restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, farmers markets, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries and tasting rooms.

The executive order declares that the following retail businesses are considered essential and may remain open during normal business hours: grocery stores, pharmacies and other retailers that sell food and beverage products or pharmacy products, including dollar stores and department stores with grocery or pharmacy operations; medical, laboratory and vision supply retailers; electronic retailers that sell or service cell phones, computers, tablets and other communications technology; automotive parts, accessories, and tire retailers as well as automotive repair facilities; home improvement, hardware, building material and building supply retailers; lawn and garden equipment retailers; beer, wine, and liquor stores; retail functions of gas stations and convenience stores; retail located within healthcare facilities; banks and other financial institutions with retail functions; pet stores and feed stores; printing and office supply stores; and laundromats and dry cleaners.

All essential retail establishments must, to the extent possible, adhere to social distancing recommendations, enhanced sanitizing practices on common surfaces and other appropriate workplace guidance from state and federal authorities.

Any brick-and-mortar retail business not listed above must limit all in-person shopping to no more than 10 patrons per establishment, adhere to social distancing recommendations, sanitize common surfaces and apply relevant workplace guidance from state and federal authorities. If any such business cannot adhere to the 10-patron limit with proper social distancing requirements, it must close.

Professional businesses not listed above must utilize telework as much as possible. Where telework is not feasible, such businesses must adhere to social distancing recommendations, enhanced sanitizing procedures and apply relevant workplace guidance from state and federal authorities, including CDC, OSHA, and the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry.

Businesses in violation of this order may be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Nothing in the governor’s executive order limits the provision of health care or medical services, access to essential services for low-income residents, such as food banks; the operations of the media; law enforcement agencies; or operations of government.