On March 23, 2020, Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam issued Executive Order No. 53, placing restrictions on restaurants, recreational facilities, entertainment venues, large gatherings, non-essential retail businesses, and  K-12 schools due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).  The Order is in effect from Tuesday, March 24, 2020 at 11:59 PM until Thursday, April 23 at 11:59 PM, and applies to the entire Commonwealth of Virginia.

1.           Closure of K-12 Schools

Governor Northam had previously ordered all K-12 schools closed for two weeks. Executive Order No. 53 requires cessation of all in-person instruction at K-12 schools (public and private) for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.  However, facilities providing child care services, such as daycares, may remain open subject to previously issued guidance limiting gatherings of 10 or more.  Though daycares remain operational, the Order encourages families with the ability to keep their children home to do so.

2.          Closure of Dining Establishments

The Order mandates closure of all dining and congregation areas located in restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, and farmers markets.  However, these establishments may continue to offer delivery and take-out services.

3.          Closure of Recreational and Entertainment Businesses

The Order also closes recreational and entertainment businesses to the public.  These establishments include:

  • Theaters, performing arts centers, concert venues, museums, and other indoor entertainment centers;
  • Fitness centers, gymnasiums, recreation centers, indoor sports facilities, and indoor exercise facilities;
  • Beauty salons, barbershops, spas, massage parlors, tanning salons, tattoo shops, and any other location where personal care or personal grooming services are performed that would not allow compliance with social distancing guidelines to remain six feet apart;
  • Racetracks and historic horse racing facilities; and
  • Bowling alleys, skating rinks, arcades, amusement parks, trampoline parks, fairs, arts and craft facilities, aquariums, zoos, escape rooms, indoor shooting ranges, public and private social clubs, and all other places of indoor public amusement.

4.          Exceptions for Essential Retail Businesses

            Although it places restrictions on non-essential businesses (see # 5 below), the Order  does not specifically identify or define “non-essential businesses.” Instead, the Order specifies essential businesses that are permitted to remain open during normal business hours, including:

  • Grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retailers that sell food and beverage products or pharmacy products, including dollar stores, and department stores with grocery or pharmacy operations;
  • Medical, laboratory, and vision supply retailers;
  • Electronic retailers that sell or service cell phones, computers, tablets, and other communications technology;
  • Automotive parts, accessories, and tire retailers as well as automotive repair facilities;
  • Home improvement, hardware, building material, and building supply retailers;
  • Lawn and garden equipment retailers;
  • Beer, wine, and liquor stores;
  • Retail functions of gas stations and convenience stores;
  • Retail located within healthcare facilities;
  • Banks and other financial institutions with retail functions;
  • Pet and feed stores;
  • Printing and office supply stores; and
  • Laundromats and dry cleaners.

5.          Non-Essential Businesses Limited To 10 Or More Persons

The Order states that any businesses not deemed essential (those not listed above) will be allowed to continue operations so long as all in-person shopping is limited to no more than 10 patrons per establishment at a time. The Order warns that any non-essential business that cannot adhere to the 10 patron limit must close.

6.          Professional Services Business May Remain Open

The Order also states that professional service businesses may remain open, but encourages those businesses to utilize teleworking as much as possible. To the extent telework is not possible, those businesses are required to adhere to social distancing  and sanitization best practices.

7.          Excepted From The Order

The Order states that certain services will not be impacted by the Order, including:

  • Health care or medical services;
  • Access to essential services for low-income residents (i.e. food banks);
  • Media;
  • Law enforcement; and
  • Government

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.