More and more states are ordering eateries and entertainment venues to close or switch to delivery and take-out only to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
When the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted to declare a local emergency earlier this morning, several supervisors mentioned how the county has limited authority to plan restrictions on eating establishments.
“We don’t have as much authority as people think we do,” Vice-Chair Penny Gross said. “We’re also at the mercy of the governor.”
A few days ago, D.C.’s mayor imposed new restrictions on restaurants and bars, prohibiting table seating and allowing them to offer delivery or take-out options. The restrictions also force nightclubs, theaters and health clubs to close for at least two weeks.
Municipalities have limited authority to take action because Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, Arlington Magazine reported, adding that Gov. Ralph Northam could issue a statewide declaration similar to Maryland’s.
Northam said this morning that the state will follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to prevent gatherings of 10 or more people, but that he does not plan to place restrictions on restaurants, WHSV reported.
“Northam is “asking them to abide by the ‘rule of 10’ and… encouraging them to focus on delivery and takeout options, instead of in-house dining,” according to WHSV.
Northam says he doesn't anticipate shutting restaurants down in the future, saying 45% of Virginians get meals from restaurants.
"I think we've got to be very careful, very prudent. We want to keep Virginia healthy. But we also know that they need to eat."
— Graham Moomaw (@gmoomaw) March 17, 2020
“At least 20 states have ordered that their restaurants and bars close to in-person diners amid the coronavirus pandemic,” The Hill reported earlier today.
The limited authority didn’t stop neighboring Arlington County to plead with restaurants and bars to “take responsible action and switch from dine-in service to only offering carryout and delivery.”
While the statement noted that Arlington County does not have the legal authority to force the changes, it said that COVID-19 cases could overwhelm Arlington if restaurants don’t limit community contact.
As of Monday, the Virginia Department of Health says there are 10 presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Fairfax County — a number that officials say is expected to grow.