Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam announced new COVID-19 restrictions Thursday that are designed to impact social gatherings, expand mask mandates, and install a curfew for Virginians.
Northam used the announcement to link the spread of the virus to worship services and to lecture the faithful on how they should practice their faith, specifically calling out believers who feel they need to gather in person in order to worship.
Not coincidentally, the announcement came just hours before the start of Hanukkah.
What did the governor say?
The restrictions include limiting all social gatherings to 10 people, instituting a curfew for citizens from midnight to 5 a.m., expanding mask mandates to require anyone over 5 years of age to wear one indoors and outdoors when they are away from their home, further reducing the number of people permitted to attend kids' sporting events, and emphasizing already strict requirements on restaurants and gyms that want to stay open.
The order will go into effect Sunday night at midnight and is set to expire Jan. 31.
After laying out the new edicts, the governor went on to lecture religious Virginians and attempted to tie faith services to the spread of COVID-19.
The governor delivered his chastisement on the same day that Jews were preparing to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah and as Christians continue to mark the days of Advent leading up to Christmas.
"I'd like to take a moment to talk about our faith communities," the governor began his admonishment. "This is a holy time for multiple faith traditions. Tonight, as a matter of fact, is the first night of Hanukkah. Christmas is two weeks away."
However, the governor warned, those who value the importance of corporate worship should not let the joy and beauty and togetherness of the season cloud "what is truly the most important thing."
'What is truly the most important thing'?
In an attempt to discourage church attendance, he then scolded anyone who wanted to gather for worship for apparently not knowing what is truly important — worship — or how to appropriately engage in it.
"The holidays are typically times of joy and community. We gather together, we celebrate our faith, and we celebrate with family," Northam said. "But this year we need to think about what is truly the most important thing. Is it the worship or the building? For me, God is wherever you are. You don't have to sit in the church pew for God to hear your prayers."
Gov. Northam turned his focus to religious leaders to "set an example" for the faithful, explaining to them what real worship is.
"I strongly call on our faith leaders to lead the way and set an example for their members," he said. "Worship with a mask on is still worship. Worship outside or worship online is still worship."
Governor Ralph Northam New COVID-19 Restrictions to Fight Spread of Coronavirus in Virginiayoutu.be