Keep Virginia Farmers Markets Open
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On March 17, 2020, Governor Northam and Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Commissioner Norman Oliver issued a Public Health Emergency Order to enforce a ten (10) patron limit in restaurants. This Order mandates that all VDH regulated restaurants and similar establishments in Virginia restrict occupancy to not more than 10 patrons at a given time.
It is the interpretation of the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (VDACS) that the order issued by the Governor and State Health Commissioner regarding the restriction limiting the number of patrons at restaurants and similar establishments to ten (10), also applies to similar establishments or activities as regulated by the VDACS Food Safety Program, including farmers’ markets. This directive does not include grocery stores, as they are deemed essential for retail food distribution to the general population.
On March 19, 2020 the US Department of Homeland Security Director, Christopher C. Krebs, released a memorandum on identifying essential critical infrastructure workers: https://www.cisa.gov/publication/guidance-essential-critical-infrastructure-workforce This memorandum guidance states:
“If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as healthcare services and pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.”
It outlines that "Workers supporting groceries, pharmacies and other retail that sells food and beverage products" are part of the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce.
Farmers Markets are an important source of nutritious, local foods that support our struggling farmers and small businesses, aa well as our local communities. They fall into the Essential Workforce category above, just as Grocery Stores do.
We have got to tell Governor Northam, the Virginia Department of Health, and VDACS to change this classification and allow Virginia residents access to Farmers Markets like grocery stores.
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