Mar 23, 2020

Virginia Governor Issues Executive Order Addressing Schools, Businesses, and Large Gatherings

On March 23, Governor Ralph Northam signed Executive Order Fifty-Three in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Executive Order (1) bans gatherings of 10 or more individuals, (2) closes all K-12 schools for the remainder of the academic year, and (3) adds temporary restrictions on restaurants, recreational businesses, entertainment businesses, and non-essential retail businesses. The order goes into effect at 11:59 PM on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 and will remain in place until 11:59 PM on Thursday, April 23, 2020.

Gatherings of 10 or More Individuals

The Executive Order bans all public and private gatherings of 10 or more individuals. The following situations are excluded from the ban: health care or medical services, essential services for low income residents, and operations of the media, law enforcement and government.

K-12 School Closures

The Executive Order directs all schools, public and private, to remain closed for the remainder of the academic year. In a press conference announcing the Executive Order, Governor Northam said local school divisions will determine how students learn the information that they were meant to cover for the remainder of the year. He also noted that the Virginia Department of Education will issue guidance to help school divisions and ensure that every student is served equitably. Of note, Governor Northam previously announced that Virginia is working on waivers for standardized testing requirements.

The Executive Order allows facilities providing child care services to remain open and urges care providers to prioritize services for children of essential personnel. The Virginia Department of Social Services and the Virginia Department of Education will issue guidance on opening emergency child care services for essential personnel. Additionally, the Executive Order notes that the March 18 guidance for daycare providers from the Department of Social Services remains effective.

Temporary Business Restrictions

Restaurants and on-site alcohol establishments must close dining and congregation areas; however, they may continue to offer delivery and/or takeout services.

All recreational and entertainment businesses must close. The Executive Order outlines the types of businesses that must close, including theaters, museums, concert venues, fitness centers, indoor sports and exercise facilities, beauty salons, spas, massage parlors, tattoo shops, racetracks and historic racing facilities, bowling alleys, arcades, and zoos to name a few.

Essential retail businesses, like grocery stores, pharmacies, medical supply retailers, home improvement stores, gas stations, and banks may remain open. The full list of essential retail businesses can be found in the Executive Order.

Brick and mortar retail businesses that are not considered an essential retail business may remain open but can only have 10 customers in the store at a time.

Businesses that offer professional services may also remain open, but should utilize teleworking. If teleworking is not feasible, businesses must take precautions, such as social distancing, enhanced sanitizing, and adhere to workplace guidance from state and federal authorities, such as the CDC.

The press release of Governor Northam’s announcement of Executive Order Fifty-Three can be found here. Additional guidance and frequently asked questions regarding the Executive Order can be found here.