Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced new coronavirus restrictions Thursday and urged people of faith to stay out of their churches during the Christmas season.
“This year, we need to think about what is truly the most important thing. Is it the worship or the building?” Northam said at a press conference. “For me, God is wherever you are. You don’t have to sit in the church pew for God to hear your prayers.”
He urged faith leaders to “lead the way” and “set an example” for their communities.
“Worship with a mask on is still worship, worship outside or worship online is still worship,” Northam said.
Northam conceded that he could not legally limit in-person worship ceremonies, noting that the recent Supreme Court decision against the state of New York prevented him from doing that.
But he blamed churches for contributing to the spread of the virus, noting that some houses of worship were not social distancing or wearing masks.
“I have heard reports. They don’t use distancing inside the church. They are not wearing masks. Quite frankly we know that a lot of the spread is coming from this,” he said.
Northam also instituted a curfew from 12:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m., arguing that it was better not to be out of the home late at night.
“I will also say something that my parents taught me when I was younger, and that is nothing good happens after midnight,” Northam said.
Northam also ordered all bars and restaurants to stop selling alcohol at 10:00 p.m.
Social gatherings must be limited to 10 people, he added, down from the previous 25.
He also mandated that everyone wear masks indoors, even if a group remained socially distant.
NEW >> Here’s Virginia’s #COVID19 modified stay at home order.
• Virginians are told to stay at home between 12AM & 5AM.
• Masks mandated indoors, even at +6ft distance
• Social gatherings capped at 10 people
• Order takes effect 12:01AM Dec 14@WUSA9 @CBSNews pic.twitter.com/ZcxCs41hbb
— Mike Valerio (@MikevWUSA) December 10, 2020