Virginia Extends Restrictions on Nonessential Businesses

On April 15, 2020, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam extended Executive Order 53, which imposes restrictions on nonessential retail businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, for an additional two weeks.  In a press briefing, the governor explained that statistical modeling from the University of Virginia indicates that the number of COVID-19 cases in the state is expected to peak in late April or early May, and that lifting social distancing requirements too early could result in a second spike in the outbreak.  As a result, Executive Order 53, which was previously set to expire on April 23, will now be in effect until May 8, 2020 (though it is certainly possible that the governor could further extend the Order beyond this date). 

Executive Order 53’s Requirements Remain Intact

Pursuant to Executive Order 53, essential retail businesses include: 

  • 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.

Any retail establishments not listed above may continue to operate, but must limit all in-person shopping to no more than 10 patrons per establishment.  If any nonessential retail business cannot adhere to the 10-patron limit with proper social distancing requirements, then it must close.

Dining areas in restaurants, food courts, breweries, wineries and similar businesses within the Commonwealth must remain closed.  These types of establishments may continue, however, to offer delivery and take-out services.

While in effect, Executive Order 53 also mandates the closure of recreational and entertainment businesses, which 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;
  • Racetrack 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.

All business operations offering professional rather than retail services may remain open, but should utilize teleworking as much as possible. Where telework is not feasible, businesses offering professional services must adhere to social distancing recommendations, enhanced sanitizing practices on common surfaces, and apply the relevant workplace guidance from state and federal authorities. 

Executive Order 53 further directs all businesses within Virginia, to the extent possible, to adhere to social distancing recommendations, enhanced sanitizing practices on common surfaces, and to apply the relevant workplace guidance from state and federal authorities. 

Violations of Executive Order 53 are punishable as Class 1 misdemeanors.

Virginia Stay-at-Home Order (Executive Order 55) Remains in Effect Until June 10

Governor Northam has not extended the deadline of Executive Order 55, Virginia’s stay-at-home order, which remains in effect until June 10, 2020.  Pursuant to Executive Order 55, all Virginians are prohibited from leaving their homes except to:

  • Obtain food, beverages, goods, or services as permitted in Executive Order 53;
  • Seek medical attention, essential social services, governmental services, assistance from law enforcement, or emergency services;
  • Take care of other individuals or animals, or visit the home of a family member;
  • Travel as required by court order to facilitate child custody, visitation, or child care;
  • Engage in outdoor activity, including exercise (provided individuals comply with social distancing requirements);
  • Travel to and from one’s residence, place of worship, or work;
  • Travel to and from an educational institution;
  • Volunteer with organizations that provide charitable or social services; and
  • Leave one’s residence due to a reasonable fear for health or safety, at the direction of law enforcement, or at the direction of another government agency.

Virginia employers should remember that all preexisting employment-related federal and Virginia statutes and regulations continue to apply and require compliance during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, employers considering furloughs or layoffs as a result of the COVID-19 crisis must remember the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, if applicable, and ensure that required notices are issued.  Employers in the Commonwealth should also remain mindful of the federal Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, which requires them to provide a safe workplace free from serious recognized hazards, as well as wage and hour laws that may come into play adjusting employee pay in response to the current crisis.  Employers should consult with counsel for guidance in complying with these laws when facing the unique circumstances presented as a result of the pandemic.   

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.