Ralph Northam

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam spoke during a Tuesday press conference in Richmond about the coronavirus outbreak.

This is literally a leap year.

And not just because we added Feb. 29 to the calendar. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend our lives and ravage the economy, we’ll be leaping over many regularly scheduled activities and events in 2020. Physically going to school in Virginia. High school and college graduations. All sports this winter and spring — as well as the Summer Olympics, which has been postponed to next year. Vacations. Conferences. Reunions. Shopping without restrictions. For many, not going to the office and, instead, working from home. For others, not going to work as jobs are lost.

We’ve learned a new phrase: social distancing. If you do venture out, you always need to be at least 6 feet away from others. A state ban prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people during this public health crisis.

Virginia reported 290 cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, a 14% increase from Monday, with seven deaths. As of Tuesday, there were more than 415,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Total deaths have exceeded 18,000 globally.

Starting Wednesday, unprecedented new restrictions go into effect in Virginia to contain the spread of contagion. Among them, recreation and entertainment businesses such as theaters, hair salons and fitness centers will close for 30 days. Restaurants can stay open only for takeout or delivery, and that includes breweries, bars and wineries. Essential businesses include groceries and pharmacies, which can remain open during regular hours.

As Gov. Ralph Northam urged Virginians during his daily press conference on Tuesday, “Be a part of the solution to keep all of us safe.” Stay home unless necessary. Practice social distancing. Wash your hands regularly and vigorously. This is our new normal in the leap year.

Pamela Stallsmith

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