BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) — In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 across Virginia, new restrictions from Gov. Ralph Northam went into effect overnight.
The announcement marked the first statewide reopening rollback since Virginia began loosening restrictions in June.
The measures in place include a reduction in public and private gatherings in both indoor and outdoor settings to 25 people; the previous cap was 250.
The governor also expanded the mask mandate.
All Virginians five and over are required to wear face coverings.
There is an on-site alcohol curfew of 10 p.m.
Sales, consumption, and possession of alcohol are prohibited after that in restaurants, bars, breweries, and tasting rooms.
Area businesses shared with Kristen Gallant how they think the new restrictions will impact their bottom lines.
It’s a sight businesses on State Street know all too well.
Once again those businesses on the Virginia side of State Street are having to follow stricter mandates than those businesses on the Tennessee side.
“Our statewide percent positivity is going up and we are seeing more and more people hospitalized with this virus,” Northam said in a YouTube video to the Commonwealth.
New mandates by Northam have businesses in Bristol concerned about what the future holds.
“Another closure,” fears Len Cook, owner of Champion Striking and Fitness. “I feel like that’s coming and I just really don’t know that small businesses around here can handle it again.”
The owner of The Trading Shops has already seen a decrease in business during the first wave of mandate enforcements at the beginning of the year.
“People here, most of them are tourists,” explained Megan Muncy Collins, “So they defiantly come in confused on the different rules and all when we have to, you know, try to enforce something that’s different than across the street.”
With the new restrictions, not enforcing the rules could lead to a fine for businesses.
“As far as the enforcement aspect of it, it goes through the Virginia Department of Health,” said former Bristol Mayor, now Bristol Virginia City Councilman, Neal Osborne. “It is classified as a class one misdemeanor if you break the mask guideline.”
“I don’t know how us as a business can say you do or you don’t have to [wear a mask] without a doctor’s note,” worries Cook. “So I don’t know how we’re going to make people wear a mask.”
Restaurants and other public venues are now seeing the biggest change when it comes to these restrictions.
“Virginia doesn’t differentiate between bars and restaurants and it will affect social gatherings it cuts them from 250 to 25 people,” said Osborne. “So there will be some issues with that I’m sure.”
Bristol, Virginia bars and restaurants are now worried they’re not going to be able to compete with those across the street in Tennessee.
Northam’s office says Virginia is averaging 1,500 new COVID-19 cases per day, which is up from a statewide peak of approximately 1,200 in May.
The governor said he put the new health measures in place to prevent the health crisis from getting worse.