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Parts of Virginia, Maryland Begin COVID-19 Reopening Process, DMV Counties Remain Closed

On May 15, portions of Virginia and Maryland began Phase 1 of plans to reopen certain social and business activity following lockdowns due to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). However, the District of Columbia and certain local counties and cities in Virginia and Maryland will remain closed, particularly those immediately surrounding the District of Columbia. In addition, beginning May 18, Metro will require all riders to wear face masks or coverings on all lines. 

Virginia’s Phase 1 Reopening Plan

In Virginia, Phase 1 of the Commonwealth’s reopening plan involves replacing the current stay-at-home order with a “Safer at Home” order. Under the Safer at Home directive, some restrictions on social and business operations remain in place, and people are asked to remain at home to the extent possible.

Certain counties and municipalities of Virginia did not enter Phase 1 of the reopening plan on May 15 and remain under the stay-at-home order. These localities include: the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, and Accomack; the cities of Richmond, Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park; and the towns of Dumfries, Herndon, Leesburg, and Vienna.

A summary of Virginia’s Phase 1 reopening is as follows:

  • The 10-person gathering limit established in Executive Order 53 will remain in place for any public gatherings, but does not apply to certain gatherings within specific businesses as identified below;
  • Face coverings are heavily encouraged in public (though not required), social distancing is still required, and teleworking is strongly suggested if possible;
  • Restaurants can open outdoor seating up to 50% capacity. Under Phase 2, which could open within two weeks of Phase 1, restaurants will be permitted to offer dine-in seating up to 50% capacity with social distancing between tables;
  • Personal grooming services (salons, barbers, etc.) are permitted to open by appointment only, with strict social distancing in place and face coverings required;
  • Non-essential retail stores can open to a maximum of 50% of customer capacity;
  • Fitness and exercise centers will be allowed to hold outdoor classes with social distancing;
  • Places of worship will be able to hold indoor services with up to 50% of the building’s capacity;
  • Private campgrounds may open with restrictions on distance between campsites;
  • State parks will be open for overnight camping in gradual regional phases;
  • Child care centers will continue to be open for working families;
  • Public beaches will continue to be open only for exercise and fishing;
  • Entertainment and amusement venues will remain closed; and
  • Overnight summer camps will remain closed.

Gov. Northam said Phase 1 will last a minimum of two weeks, but could last longer. Restrictions in Phase 1 will be enforced with local law enforcement and Virginia State Police holding the authority to cite people who do not obey the guidelines.

Maryland’s Reopening Plan

On May 13, 2020, Gov. Larry Hogan announced the beginning of Maryland’s transition from a “Stay at Home” order to a “Safer at Home” public health advisory. He issued an executive order allowing for the gradual reopening of retail, manufacturing, and some personal services businesses, as well as houses of worship beginning May 15 at 5:00 p.m. 

The Executive Order permits a “political subdivision” to issue more restrictive local orders requiring any business to “close or modify their operations,” or “requiring individuals to remain indoors or refrain from congregating.” On May 14, Montgomery County issued a press release announcing that it has issued a Local Order continuing stay-at-home restrictions until the COVID-19 outbreak begins to subside.

Gov. Hogan’s Executive Order also authorizes the Secretary of Health to issue directives with “binding requirements” as necessary to monitor and suppress the spread of COVID-19 in relation to “any business, organization, establishment, or facility that is permitted by this Order to be open to the general public.”

  • Outdoor Recreation Facilities, such as golf courses, amusement parks, and campgrounds, may reopen to the general public immediately;
  • Religious Facilities may reopen to the general public at 5:00 p.m. on May 15, 2020, with up to 50% occupancy;
  • Retail Establishments may reopen to the general public at 5:00 p.m. on May 15, 2020, with up to 50% occupancy. The Office of Legal Counsel has issued interpretive guidance with a non-exhaustive list of retail establishments that may reopen pursuant to the Executive Order;
  • Hair Salons/Barber Shops may reopen to the general public at 5:00 p.m. on May 15, 2020, with up to 50% occupancy. Such establishments may only offer “hair services” and must follow strict social distancing and hygiene policies;
  • Other Personal Services Establishments, such as tattoo and massage parlors, must remain closed;
  • Senior Citizen Activities Centers must remain closed to the general public;
  • Dine-In Restaurants and Bars must remain closed to the general public;
  • Most Fitness Centers must remain closed to the general public;
  • Theaters must remain closed to the general public;
  • Recreational Establishments, such as bowling alleys, amusement parks, and social clubs, must remain closed to the general public;
  • Non-Essential Businesses (as defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency) must remain closed to the general public. However, staff and owners of non-essential businesses may continue to be on-site for limited purposes, such as facilitating remote working and performing essential administrative functions; and
  • Gatherings Larger Than 10 Persons, such as social, community, or sports gatherings, are prohibited.

All reopened businesses and facilities must comply with applicable local orders, applicable directives by the Secretary of Health, and applicable social distancing guidance published by the CDC and Maryland Department of Health. Retail businesses must continue to comply with the April 15, 2020 Executive Order requiring the use of face coverings and social distancing under certain circumstances.

Knowing and willful violations of the Order or any Local Order are subject to criminal penalties including imprisonment up to one year and/or a fine not exceeding $5,000.

For more information and updates on the developing situation, visit GT’s Health Emergency Preparedness Task Force: Coronavirus Disease 2019.