Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam

A day after Gov. Ralph Northam issued a stay-at-home order for all Virginians, Sheriff Fred S. Clark said he wanted to reassure the public the sheriff’s office is still here for the public’s needs while also asking county residents to follow Northam’s guidelines.

He encourages the public to continue to practice social distancing and not to leave home unless it’s necessary.

Under Northam’s order, Virginians must stay at home and may only go out for food, supplies, work, medical care, or to get fresh air or exercise.

The order remains in place until June 10.

“Please take care of yourself and family. Stay safe and healthy. We must stand together and help each other in these trying times, and hopefully we will all come out stronger. Please keep everyone in your prayers especially those on the frontlines and have to be out working during this situation. May God bless you all,” said Clark.

Even though the sheriff’s office is closed to the public at this time, the staff continues to work and can be reached at 434-476-3339.

“Deputies continue to respond daily to emergency calls. We also are providing extra patrols throughout all areas of the county. Non-emergency calls are being handled by telephone to help keep the public and sheriff’s office employees healthy and safe,” said Clark.

Sheriff Clark further stated that although calls for crime are down they have seen an increase in disturbance and domestic calls.

Northam called his orders “necessary to protect public health.”

The order directs all Virginians to stay home except in extremely limited circumstances, according to a news release.

“Individuals may leave their residence for allowable travel, including to seek medical attention, work, care for family or household members, obtain goods and services like groceries, prescriptions and others as outlined in Executive Order Fifty-Three, and engage in outdoor activity with strict social distancing requirements,” the release stated.

Private campgrounds will be closed and beaches will only be open for exercise and fishing.

The governor made his message clear by constantly repeating the refrain “stay at home.” He suggested residents schedule trips to the grocery store perhaps on a weekly basis instead of going every other day.

Northam is enacting the executive order to slow the potential medical surge with the coronavirus.

“We will get through this together,” Northam said.

He’s still encouraging businesses to maintain the 10 patrons or less rule. 

This move comes in contrast to what the governor said Friday when asked why he hasn’t issued a stay-at-home order.

“We’re talking semantics here,” Northam said at Friday’s news conference. “We’re talking how to enforce it. ...Stay at home unless it’s essential to get out.”

On Monday, he was asked what changed since Friday. In response he said, “To date it’s been a suggestion to Virginians,” he said. “Today, it’s an order.”

No new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Halifax County on Tuesday morning when the Virginia Department of Health released the latest data, but the number of those infected in the state crossed the 1,000 threshold Monday.

As of 9 a.m. Tuesday, the department reported 1,250 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in Virginia. That’s an increase of 230 from Monday’s report.

Henry County has joined Southside Virginia in reporting its first case there. Halifax has one case, Danville has four and Mecklenburg also has four cases. A Gretna man died from the illness last week.

In all, 13,401 people have been tested in the commonwealth. There were 165 patients hospitalized and 27 deaths in the latest data.

On Sunday night, President Donald Trump extended the federal guidelines — known originally as 15 Days to Slow the Spread — in response to the outbreak until April 30. Those guidelines include avoiding social gatherings of more than 10 people and urging older Americans to not leave their homes, among other precautions.

Last week in Virginia, Northam closed schools for the rest of the year and put restrictions on many other businesses, including eateries that can now only operate for take-out.