Northam cancels school year, orders some businesses closed

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By ALAN SUDERMAN and SARAH RANKIN Associated Press
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia public schools will remain closed for the rest of the current school year and certain types of businesses, like bowling alleys, gyms and theaters, must close in response to the coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday.
Northam’s order would not apply to businesses deemed essential, including grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations.
His announcement comes as the number of people testing positive for the virus continues to rise. As of Monday, there were 254 confirmed cases in the state and six virus-related deaths in Virginia, officials said.
On Sunday, Northam gave a sobering timeline of efforts to diminish the intensity of the outbreak, warning that life as we’ve known it will be disrupted “for a long time.”
The governor had previously ordered a two-week school closure, which was set to end at the end of this week. Many school districts in the state have previously said they will be closed until at least mid-April.
A growing number of states and localities have been shutting their schools indefinitely. Last week Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly closed public and private K-12 schools for the rest of the academic year.
Northam’s order on business closings is similar to what other states have done. He had previously ordered restaurants, fitness centers and theaters to limit their capacity to 10 customers.
The virus causes only minor flu-like symptoms in most people, who recover in a matter of weeks. But it is highly contagious and can cause severe illness or death in some, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health problems. Severe cases are often only able to breathe with respirators.
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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.