Amid Coronavirus Pandemic, Virginia Bans Public Gatherings With Over 100 People After First Death, 45 Test Positive

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam on Sunday banned public gatherings with more than 100 people after 45 individuals tested positive for the coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, across the state.

Northam announced the directive following a meeting with Peninsula Health District officials earlier in the day. He also ordered a 14-day shutdown of local offices in areas of southeast Virginia that have been hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

"This is a very fluid and dynamic situation. We have not mandated a quarantine, but we are strongly encouraging and urging people to avoid public gatherings of any kind," Northam said, according to the Associated Press, before telling those residing in the peninsula district to "cancel" all events with several people.

Local officials have urged individuals to avoid public gatherings with more than 50 people. Dr. Thomas Franck, director of the Peninsula Health District, said state officials have followed up with 200 people who have been in contact with coronavirus-infected individuals "to ensure self-quarantine is taking place and to identify additional cases of the virus in the community." He added that they will continue to locate others.

Eight people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Virginia Peninsula, including a male in his 70s who recently died of respiratory complications caused by the disease. At the time of Northam's announcement, 45 people statewide had tested positive.

Newsweek reached out to Northam's office for additional information, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

The U.S. confirmed more than 2,700 coronavirus cases by Sunday morning, with at least 54 deaths. Concerns among citizens have continued to grow this weekend over how hospitals and airports in America will cope with the escalating pandemic, as well as lack of adequate testing.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced a travel ban on countries in the European Schengen zone, which was implemented on Friday. The Trump administration extended the ban to include Ireland the United Kingdom, which will go into effect on Tuesday. U.S. citizens are permitted to return home from those countries but will face screening upon arrival.

By Sunday morning, the World Health Organization confirmed more than 152,000 cases of coronavirus and roughly 5,393 deaths worldwide. China implemented tougher travel restrictions for passengers arriving at Beijing airport after Reuters reported that COVID-19 infections overtook locally transmitted cases for the second day in a row. Of the 20 new cases of infections reported within the mainland on March 14, about 16 were imported, according to the National Health Commission (NHC).

Ralph Northam
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam speaks during an unveiling ceremony for Rumors of War, a statue by artist Kehinde Wiley, at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on December 10, 2019 in Richmond, Virginia. Zach Gibson/Getty