Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam Tuesday announced a crackdown on those who don’t wear masks in public places or don’t practice social distancing, ordering health inspectors to make “unannounced visits” to retail establishments and restaurants and revoking the business licenses if workers are not wearing masks or customers are allowed to congregate in tight spaces.
A report by the Virginia Department of Health Wednesday morning shows 1,084 new cases of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, surpassing the previous day’s total by more than 200. The Commonwealth now has 73,527 cases.
“If you own a restaurant or a business and you’re not following the regulations, your license will be on the line, and we will not hesitate to take action if needed,” Northam said in one of his briefings. “Remember that you do not have to serve a patron who is not wearing a face covering. You can tell them to leave. And if they don’t, they’re trespassing and you can, in turn, call the police.”
The governor said customers who violate mask rules can be cited and fined.
“There is certainly community spread,” Northam added.
The governor says he is ready to crack down even more if things don’t change, including reducing the size of gatherings back to 50 or less.
“This is not political,” he said in a report by The Washington Post Tuesday. “This is about our health and well-being, and it’s also about our economy. It’s going to take all of us to move forward safely.”
Some critics say harsher penalties on those not wearing masks inside businesses are needed. Others say Northam is going too far.
“This mandate puts businesses in an untenable position. To keep their licenses, they must confront customers who choose not to comply,” House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) said in a statement released Tuesday. “I can’t help but think issuing a statewide ‘or else’ threat will do little but create more defiance.”
While Northam says businesses could lose their license if their employees aren’t wearing masks, but adds that he is only “urging” owners of establishments to “recommend” their customers not enter their establishments without face coverings.