Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday that Hampton Roads has become a hot spot in Virginia for coronavirus cases — and hinted that tougher restrictions are coming.
“We’re looking at options like decreasing the size of gatherings from 250 to 50. We’re looking at what’s going on when people are congregating in bars and restaurants ... and really ignoring our guidelines,” he said. “We have people coming from a lot of other states ... and what we’re seeing is people gathering in these private parties and social gatherings, paying no attention to wearing masks, social distancing … between that and the bars and restaurants, that’s where the problem is, as we talk to our tracers. And that’s where we’re going to need to make some adjustments.”
Northam, who is set to deliver his latest coronavirus briefing Tuesday afternoon, made comments after a Monday press conference to launch “Rebuild Virginia” in Hampton’s downtown Phoebus. It’s a $70 million grant program for small businesses and nonprofits to cover existing or unpaid expenses, back rent, payroll or utilities, or other financial business disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The grant, managed by the Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity, would be available on a first-come, first-served basis for 7,000 eligible small businesses and nonprofits. They can apply for grants for up to $10,000. Eligible businesses may include food and beverage establishments, non-essential retail, exercise and fitness, entertainment and public amusement, personal care and personal grooming services or private campground and overnight summer camps. Businesses should have no more than 25 employees or annual gross revenues exceeding $1.5 million.
Seeking the shade, several Hampton officials, state officials and lawmakers crowded in the Phoebus courtyard on Mellen Street, as a few speakers touted the program that is geared toward minority- or woman-owned businesses, or those in low-income communities.
“Access to capital remains the number one challenge for small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Tracey Wiley, director at SBSD, told the group. She added the state wants to “bring forth funding with an equity lens to be able to touch the underserved and the unbanked ... realizing that not all communities are created equal. Businesses already were suffering (and) they were challenged even more through this health and economic crisis.”
Eligible businesses must also certify they haven’t received other aid through the federal CARES Act. Grant applications will be available beginning Aug. 10. Additional information on the Rebuild VA grant may be found at https://www.governor.virginia.gov/rebuildva/.
After the conference, Northam then spoke with reporters, stressing that Virginia has done a good job of keeping its numbers low.
As of Monday, the Virginia Department of Health reported 1,505 new coronavirus cases, with a seven-day percentage of positive tests at 7.5%. Hampton Roads makes up 33% of all new cases.
“In order to mitigate this, we’re going to have to kind of have a surgical approach and look at specific regions where the numbers are increasing. Any announcement (Tuesday) will be just pertinent to here in Hampton Roads,” Northam said. “Our positivity rating across Virginia right now is around 7.5, 7.7%. In Hampton Roads, it’s over 12%. If we let those numbers continue to trend upward, it’s going to impact our ability to take care of individuals in our hospitals or nursing staff or equipment, or ICU beds.”
Any changes to guidelines would be with the recommendations of local mayors, he said.
“We want to get our kids back in school. We want to get our businesses back up, ... but we’ve got to get the health crisis under control and behind us and until we do that ... we can’t recover economically. We’re going to probably need to make some tough decisions.”
The announcement in Phoebus was one of two stops. The other was to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission offices at Fort Monroe, where Northam signed legislation to ban offshore drilling and establish landmark protections for Virginia’s coastal and bay waters.
Lisa Vernon Sparks, 757-247-4832, email@example.com
©2020 the Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)
Visit the Daily Press (Newport News, Va.) at www.dailypress.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.