Loudoun Outlines Plans To Enforce Governor's Coronavirus Order

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This article originally appeared on the Leesburg Patch

LOUDOUN COUNTY, VA — Loudoun County government officials are warning residents to stay off school property, playgrounds, athletic fields and outdoor sports facilities or risk getting charged by the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office. Under Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam's Executive Order 53 issued Monday, Loudoun County businesses, schools and gatherings will be subject to restrictions intended to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus, or COVID-19, the county said.

Northam also ordered the state's K-12 schools to remain closed through the end of the academic year. All Loudoun County Public Schools campuses and facilities, including all playgrounds, athletic fields and courts, are also closed to the public at this time, the county said. In addition, county park features that include playgrounds and athletic courts are closed.

The county sheriff’s office "may charge individuals or groups with trespass if they are improperly or illegally on county-owned property or facilities where 'No Trespassing' signs are properly posted," the county said.

At the scores of homeowners associations (HOAs) across Loudoun County, the sheriff's office, with authorization from an HOA, "may enforce 'No Trespassing' on HOA-owned property, including playgrounds, basketball courts or other athletic facilities where signs are posted that these areas are closed," the county said.

While Northam emphasized at his daily coronavirus press briefing Monday that he is not looking to penalize people and businesses for noncompliance with his orders, Loudoun County is warning residents that it intends to take enforcement action against people who enter these areas.

Northam's order also specifies that gatherings of more than 10 people are banned statewide, beginning at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday. The governor said his administration does not want to see police departments or sheriff's deputies arresting people.

"For example, if somebody from the sheriff's department sees a congregation on the beach of 10 or more people, they will be reminded that that is not accepable," Northam said at the press briefing. "Our effort is not to penalize people, but it is to encourage people to do the right thing."

Along those lines, Loudoun County warned that if people are congregating in groups of 10 or more in public, the sheriff's office "will assess the scene and encourage and direct the groups to disperse."

As for businesses ordered closed by Northam's executive order, Loudoun County said if the sheriff's office receives a call that one of these businesses is still open, "the LCSO will respond to the business, take legal action if appropriate and/or advise the business owner to cease that activity." The sheriff's office may also notify the Loudoun County Health Department for "appropriate legal follow-up," the county said.

The Loudoun sheriff’s office and the Loudoun County Health Department are working together to "educate the affected business owners to ensure an understanding of the order to help combat COVID-19." If a resident observes a potential violation, Loudoun County is encouraging them to call the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency number at 703-777-1021.

Violations of the governor’s order are a misdemeanor, which carry a punishment of up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500, the county said.

The governor’s order declares the following recreation and entertainment businesses are considered nonessential and must close to the public beginning at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday:

  • Theaters, performing arts centers, concert venues, museums, and other indoor entertainment centers; fitness centers, gymnasiums, recreation centers, indoor sports facilities, indoor exercise facilities.

  • Beauty salons, barber shops, spas, massage parlors, tanning salons, tattoo shops, and any other location where personal care or personal grooming services are performed that would not allow compliance with social distancing guidelines to remain six feet apart.

  • Racetracks and historic horse racing facilities.

  • Bowling alleys, skating rinks, arcades, amusement parks, trampoline parks, fairs, arts and craft facilities, aquariums, zoos, escape rooms, indoor shooting ranges, public and private social clubs, and all other places of indoor public amusement.

According to Northam's order, all dining and congregation areas in the following establishments must close to the public beginning at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday. However, these establishments may continue to offer delivery and/or takeout services:

  • Restaurants

  • Dining establishments

  • Food courts

  • Farmers markets

  • Breweries

  • Microbreweries

  • Distilleries

  • Wineries

  • Tasting rooms

While essential businesses may remain open, Northam's order requires them to adhere to social distancing recommendations, enhanced sanitizing practices on common surfaces and other workplace guidance from state and federal authorities. The essential businesses include:

  • Grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retailers that sell food and beverage products or pharmacy products, including dollar stores, and department stores with grocery or pharmacy operations.

  • Medical, laboratory, and vision supply retailers.

  • Electronic retailers that sell or service cell phones, computers, tablets, and other communications technology.

  • Automotive parts, accessories, and tire retailers as well as automotive repair facilities.

  • Home improvement, hardware, building material, and building supply retailers.

  • Lawn and garden equipment retailers.

  • Beer, wine, and liquor stores.

  • Retail functions of gas stations and convenience stores.

  • Retail located within healthcare facilities.

  • Banks and other financial institutions with retail functions.

  • Pet stores and feed stores.

  • Printing and office supply stores.

  • Laundromats and dry cleaners.

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