Governor closes schools, businesses as COVID-19 cases grow

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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ7) - Governor Ralph Northam says public and private schools will continue to be closed through the remainder of the school year. The original closure was slated to end at the end of this week.

The state will work with school districts on coursework for students for the remainder of the academic year. Northam assures that students set to graduate this year will still do so. He says the state is working on waivers to ease testing requirements.

VEA, school districts respond to Gov. Northam's order to close schools

Regarding child care for children of essential workers, such as emergency responders and those in health care and the grocery field, Northam is calling for an emergency public/private response, with help from communities, private daycare providers, community child care partners and public schools to help create a solution. Northam says there are 1.2 milion children under age 12 in the commonwealth.

Click here to watch Monday's news conference.

This is in the wake of the Virginia Department of Health reporting 254 cases of coronavirus in the commonwealth as of noon Monday. Any new confirmed cases the rest of the day won't show up until at least Tuesday on the state list.

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Northam says also recreation and entertainment areas and businesses, such as bowling alleys, theaters, fitness centers and racetracks, must close as cases of coronavirus continue to grow, and restaurants have to close their dining rooms, being open only for takeout, delivery and curbside delivery.

Other businesses that cannot observe social distancing, such as barber shops, spas, salons and massage parlors, must also close.

Non-essential retailers are allowed to stay open if they allow ten or fewer patrons at a time and expand sanitizing procedures. Essential brick-and-mortar businesses, such as health care, grocery stores and supply chain businesses, have to maintain social distancing, with six feet between people. The state website will soon have a list of criteria for businesses considered essential versus non-essential.

The new business restrictions, outlined in Executive Order 53, take effect midnight Tuesday night, and are expected to last at least 30 days.

Click here for a list of explanations and frequently-asked questions.

The governor's office says the construction industry will not be shut down.

Northam also is continuing his mandate that any gatherings be kept to ten people or fewer, saying any larger groups will be encouraged to disperse.

There are seven recorded coronavirus-related deaths in the commonwealth, and 38 people have been hospitalized. 3,697 people have been tested.

The state continues to be involved with coronavirus testing, working with private labs to make sure there are enough tests for people with coronavirus symptoms.

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