Tenn – Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday that he is concerned about the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in southwest Virginia.

He also said Tennessee’s lack of statewide COVID-19 restrictions may be contributing to rising case counts in the Commonwealth.

“Health officials believe Tennessee’s lack of a mask requirement and other restrictions, has increased the spread of the virus in neighboring Virginia communities,” Northam said.

That sentiment was echoed by the Dr. Karen Shelton of the Mount Rogers Health District, which serves Bland, Carroll, Grayson, Smyth, Washington, and Wythe counties and the cities of Bristol and Galax.

“The guidelines in Virginia may help to protect people in Virginia, but when neighboring states have less restrictive guidelines we know that people are back and forth and as they have surges in cases it directly affects us as well,” Shelton said.

Despite the surge in cases, Northam said he would not be issuing increased restrictions at this time.

Meanwhile, business owners on the Tennessee side of State Street in Bristol are keeping an eye on Virginia’s COVID-19 restrictions. They told us another shutdown in Tennessee is not a viable option.

“We can’t shut down, we depend on this,” said Amy Sheets, owner of Mercantile at 620.

“I think if that were to happen again, you’d see a lot of businesses, in particular restaurants, go under…it’s just going to be very difficult to hang on now,” said Delta Blues owner Travis Penn.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has indicated that he will not issue a statewide face covering mandate and has no plans to shut down businesses in the state.