By Ted Shockley

Three people in Northampton County have been charged with congregating in violation of Executive Order 53, which limited statewide gatherings to no more than 10 people to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Sheriff David Doughty said all were charged with a Class 1 Misdemeanor in connection with an apparent party in Bayview, near Cheriton, on Saturday, March 28. 

If convicted, those charged could face a punishment of 12 months in jail or a $2,500 fine, or both.  The three were warned by officers to disperse but they didn’t leave, and were later charged. 

“One of the deputies saw a large gathering and he asked them to disperse,” said Doughty. “He came back and there was no action. They were given a warning.”

One of those charged also had outstanding warrants against him in Accomack and Northampton counties. 

“The person was not being cooperative,” said Doughty. “He was being verbally uncooperative.”

The three are thought to be the first in eastern Virginia to be charged with violating the governor’s order, although Doughty couldn’t confirm the distinction. 

It was one of several warnings issued in Northampton County by law-enforcement agencies over the weekend to those gathered in large crowds. 

Chesapeake Bay beachgoers enjoying uncommonly warm March weather twice had to be dispersed.

Doughty said a large group of high-school and college-aged gathered on a state-owned beach near Savage Neck Road near Eastville had to be disbanded by authorities.

In another instance, a beachfront group at Butler’s Bluff, near Kiptopeke State Park, had to be warned and dismissed from a gathering.

Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday referenced Hampton Roads beach crowds last weekend when he issued Executive Order 55, which now limits any beach activity to fishing or exercising. 

Prohibitions are designed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, for which more than 1,250 Virginians have tested positive. There have been almost 30 reported deaths. 

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