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Hampton Roads will be Virginia’s focus for stricter COVID-19 enforcement on businesses

Beachgoers crowd the shoreline along the oceanfront Monday, June 29, 2020, in Virginia Beach, Va.

(The Center Square) – Business restrictions related to COVID-19 will be more strictly enforced statewide, but the main focus of enforcement will be the Hampton Roads region after a substantial uptick in cases and percent positivity, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said.

Rather than ordering the region or the entire state to move backward reopening phases, state and local health officials more strictly will enforce face mask mandates and physical distancing regulations in the commonwealth. Businesses that fail to follow regulations could have their licenses stripped from them.

“This is not political,” Northam said. “This is about our health and well-being, and it’s also about our economy. It’s going to take all of us to move forward safely.”

While the state has begun to trend upward in overall COVID-19 cases and percent of positive tests, the trends are vastly different depending on the region. In northern Virginia, cases are dropping, and the percent of positive tests is just over 6.5 percent. In northwest Virginia, cases are holding steady and percent positivity is around 6 percent. Central Virginia has seen a small uptick in cases and has a percent of positive tests around 6.5 percent.

However, eastern Virginia, which accounts for Hampton Roads, is disproportionately causing the state’s numbers to head in the wrong direction. In this region, the seven-day moving average for positive cases reported per day has more than doubled this month – from 115.6 on July 1 to 346.9 on Tuesday. The seven-day moving average for percent of positive tests has nearly tripled in the past month – from 3.5 percent on June 10 to 10.1 percent Friday.

In the entire state, percent of positive tests has increased from 5.9 percent at its lowest point in late June to 6.9 percent as of Friday. The average number of positive cases per day went up from 527 on July 1 to 815 on Tuesday.

“Simply put, a large portion of the increase in cases that we’re seeing in our state numbers are coming from the Tidewater region,” Northam said. “… A lot of that increase is driven by people socializing without wearing masks, especially young people.”

Positive cases for people ages 20 through 29 have gone up 250 percent since June.

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