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Forward Virginia Guidelines

Safer at Home: Phase I

Guidelines for All Business Sectors

Physical Distancing Best Practices

  • Establish policies and practices for physical distancing between co-workers and between members of the public. (See sector-specific guidelines below for more detailed information on public engagement.)
  • Provide clear communication and signage for physical distancing in areas where individuals may congregate, especially at entrances, in seating areas, and in check-out lines.
  • Limit the occupancy of physical spaces to ensure that adequate physical distancing may be maintained. (See sector-specific guidelines for more detailed information.)
  • Encourage telework whenever possible. 
  • For those businesses where telework is not feasible, temporarily move or stagger workstations to ensure six feet of separation between co-workers and between members of the public.
  • Where possible, employees and customers should utilize face coverings. (See CDC Use of Cloth Face Coverings guidance for more detailed information). Where six feet of physical distance is not possible in a given business setting, employers should provide face covering to employees, such as utilizing the CDC Use of Cloth Face Coverings guidance
  • Limit in-person work-related gatherings, including conferences, trade shows, and trainings. 
  • When in-person meetings need to occur, keep meetings as short as possible, limit the number of employees in attendance, and use physical distancing practices.

Enhanced Cleaning and Disinfection Best Practices

  • Practice routine cleaning and disinfection of high contact areas and hard surfaces, including check out stations and payment pads, store entrance push/pull pads, door knobs/handles, dining tables/chairs, light switches, handrails, restrooms, floors, and equipment. Follow CDC Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfection and use an EPA-approved disinfectant to clean. For high contact areas, routinely disinfect surfaces at least every 2 hours. Certain surfaces and objects in public spaces, such as shopping carts and point of sale keypads, should be cleaned and disinfected before each use.
  • To the extent tools or equipment must be shared, provide access to and instruct workers to use an EPA-approved disinfectant to clean items before and after use.
  • Provide a place for employees and customers to wash hands with soap and water, or provide alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol. (See sector-specific guidelines for more detailed information.)
  • When developing staff schedules, implement additional short breaks to increase the frequency with which staff can wash hands with soap and water. Alternatively, consider providing alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol so that workers can frequently sanitize their hands.
  • Provide best hygiene practices to employees on a regular basis, including washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and practicing respiratory etiquette protocols. A CDC training video is available here: https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/videos.html.

Enhanced Workplace Safety Best Practices

  • Establish a relationship with your local health department and know who to contact for questions.
  • Prior to a shift and on days employees are scheduled to work, employers should screen employees prior to starting work. Employees should also self-monitor their symptoms by self-taking of temperature to check for fever and utilizing the questions provided in the VDH Interim Guidance for COVID -19 Daily Screening of Employees before reporting to work. For employers with established occupational health programs, employers can consider measuring temperature and assessing symptoms of employees prior to starting work/before each shift. CDC considers a person to have a fever when he or she has a measured temperature of 100.4° F (38° C) or greater, feels warm to the touch, or gives a history of feeling feverish. Implement practices such as those described in VDH Interim Guidance for COVID -19 Daily Screening of Employees for examples of a screening questionnaire. A sample symptom monitoring log is available in this Interim Guidance. 
  • Instruct employees who are sick to stay at home and not report to work. If an employee becomes ill or presents signs of illness, follow CDC What to Do if You Are Sick guidance. Employers should post signage in the common languages of the employees telling employees not to come to work when sick.
  • Develop or adopt flexible sick leave policies to ensure that sick employees do not report to work. Policies should allow employees to stay home if they are sick with COVID-19, if they need to self-quarantine due to exposure, and if they need to care for a sick family member. Employers should recommend that employees follow CDC guidance on If You Are Sick or Caring For Someone
  • Some employees are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. These vulnerable employees include individuals over age 65 and those with underlying medical conditions. Vulnerable employees should be encouraged to self-identify and employers should take particular care to reduce their risk of exposure, while making sure to be compliant with relevant Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) regulations.
    • Consider offering vulnerable employees duties that minimize their contact with customers and other employees (e.g., restocking shelves rather than working as a cashier), if agreed to by the employee.
    • Protect employees at higher risk for severe illness by supporting and encouraging options to telework.
    • If implementing health checks, conduct them safely and respectfully, and in accordance with any applicable privacy laws and regulations. Confidentiality should be respected.
    • Other information on civil rights protections for workers related to COVID-19 is available here.
  • Designate a staff person to be responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns. Employees should know who this person is and how to contact them.
  • Implement staggered shifts for both work periods and break periods. Consider cohort scheduling where groups of employees only work with employees in their group.
  • Limit the number of employees in break rooms and stagger breaks to discourage gatherings.
  • Use messaging boards or digital messaging for pre-shift meeting information.
  • If the building has not been occupied for the last 7 days, there are additional public health considerations that should be considered, such as taking measures to ensure the safety of your building water system. However, it is not necessary to clean ventilation systems other than routine maintenance as part of reducing the risk of coronavirus transmission.

For healthcare facilities, additional guidance is provided on CDC’s Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities.

Restaurants and Beverage Services

Restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, cideries, mobile units (food trucks), distilleries, wineries, and tasting rooms.

Phase I: Establishments must either implement the following mandatory requirements or close.

Mandatory Requirements

Businesses must strictly adhere to the physical distancing guidelines, enhanced cleaning and disinfection practices, and enhanced workplace safety practices provided in the “Guidelines for All Business Sectors” document. Virginia Department of Health and Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services regulated facilities must continue to follow requirements related to prohibiting sick employees in the workplace, strict handwashing practices, and procedures and practices to clean and sanitize surfaces.

During Phase I, businesses should continue to offer takeout and delivery options. If businesses choose to open to dine-in customers, they may only do so in outdoor spaces and must adhere to the following additional requirements for outdoor service:

  • Post signage at the entrance that states that no one with a fever or symptoms of COVID-19, or known exposure to a COVID-19 case in the prior 14 days, is permitted in the establishment.
  • Post signage to provide public health reminders regarding physical distancing, gatherings, options for high risk individuals, and staying home if sick (See samples at the bottom of this document).
  • Occupancy must be limited to no more than 50% of the lowest occupancy load on the certificate of occupancy, if applicable, while maintaining a minimum of six feet of physical distancing between all individuals as much as possible.
  • Provide a minimum of six feet between parties at tables, (i.e., the six feet cannot include the space taken up by the seated guest). If tables are not movable, seat parties at least six feet apart. Spacing must also allow for physical distancing from areas outside of the facility’s control (i.e. provide physical distancing from persons on public sidewalks). 
  • Do not seat parties of more than 10 patrons. All parties, whether seated together or across multiple tables, must be limited to 10 patrons or less.
  • Do not seat multiple parties at any one table unless marked with six foot divisions (such as with tape). 
  • Bar seats and congregating areas of restaurants must be closed to patrons except for through-traffic. Non-bar seating in the outdoor bar area (i.e., tables or counter seats that do not line up to a bar or food service area) may be used for customer seating as long as a minimum of six feet is provided between parties at tables.
  • Keep game areas, dance floors, and playgrounds closed. If live musicians are performing at an establishment, they must remain at least six feet from patrons and staff. 
  • Employees working in customer dining and service areas are required to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth, such as using CDC Use of Cloth Face Coverings guidance.
  • Use single-use disposable menus (e.g., paper) and discard after each customer. Reusable menus are not permitted in Phase I. Refilling food and beverage containers or implements brought in by customers is not allowed in Phase I. 
  • Prior to each shift, employers should ask that the employee self-measure their temperature and assess symptoms. Please see VDH Interim Guidance for Implementing Safety Practices for Critical Infrastructure Workers During Widespread Community Transmission.  
  • No self-service of food (except beverages), including condiments. Condiments must be removed from tables and dispensed by employees upon the request of a customer. Buffets must be staffed by servers. For self-service beverage areas, use beverage equipment designed to dispense by a contamination-free method.
  • Perform thorough cleaning and disinfection of frequently contacted surfaces including digital ordering devices, check presenters, self-service areas, tabletops, bathroom surfaces, and other common touch areas every 60 minutes during operation. Tabletops and credit card/bill folders must be disinfected between patrons. 
  • Table resets must be done by an employee who has washed their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds just prior to reset activities.
  • Only 10 patrons may wait for takeout in the lobby area at one time.

Best Practices

In addition to the requirements provided above, establishments are encouraged to utilize the following best practices to the extent they are feasible:

  • Encourage customers to wear face coverings while entering, exiting, or otherwise traveling throughout the restaurant. Face coverings may be removed while seated.
  • Utilize reservations for dining on the premises.
  • Use staff facilitated seating where appropriate. If seating is not staff facilitated and tables cannot be moved to meet the physical distancing requirements outlined above, tables that should not be used must be clearly marked that they are out of service.
  • Assign employee(s) to monitor and clean high touch areas while in operation. 
  • Use technology solutions where possible to reduce person-to-person interaction, including mobile ordering and menu tablets, text on arrival for seating, and contactless payment options.
  • Consider methods to make point of sale terminals safer, including use of no contact applications, placement of a glass or clear plastic barrier between the employee and the customer, and providing a hand sanitizer station for customer and employee use after handling credit/debit cards, PIN terminals, or exchange of cash.
  • Servers should avoid touching items on tables while customers are seated. Dedicated staff should remove all items from the table when customer(s) leave.  
  • Consider scheduled closure periods throughout the day to allow for cleaning and disinfecting, including bathrooms (i.e., after lunch service).
  • Use separate doors to enter and exit the establishment when possible.
  • When protective equipment such as face coverings are used, launder daily and wash hands after touching/adjusting face covering while working.
  • Single-use items should be discarded. Consider using rolled silverware and eliminating table presets.              
  • Consider installing touchless door and sink systems or providing single-use barriers (e.g., deli tissues, paper towels) for use when touching door and sink handles.
  • Implement procedures to increase how often the back-of-house areas are cleaned and sanitized.

Additional Considerations

Take-out and Delivery providers are encouraged to utilize the following recommendations:

  • Notify customers as the delivery is arriving by text message or phone call.
  • Ensure transport containers are cleaned and sanitized between uses.
  • Establish designated pick-up zones for customers, including separate entrances and exits where possible.
  • Offer curb-side pick-up.
  • Encourage cashless transactions where possible.
  • Practice physical distancing by offering to place orders in vehicle trunks.
  • Seal food packages to safeguard the integrity of contents.
  • If an establishment uses a delivery service, implement a contactless pick-up option where drivers do not have to come into the restaurant.

Food Trucks/Mobile Units are encouraged to utilize the following recommendations

  • Provide signage and aids to help customers maintain six feet of distance while ordering or waiting for an order.
  • Food and other items should not be returned after they are loaded onto the mobile unit.
  • Schedule frequent cleaning and disinfecting of order pick-up areas and other commonly touched surfaces.

Farmers Markets

Phase I: Establishments must either implement the following mandatory requirements or remain closed.

Mandatory Requirements

Businesses must strictly adhere to the physical distancing guidelines, enhanced cleaning and disinfection practices, and enhanced workplace safety practices provided in the “Guidelines for All Business Sectors” document. Virginia Department of Health and Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services regulated facilities must continue to follow requirements related to prohibiting sick employees in the workplace, strict handwashing practices, and procedures and practices to clean and sanitize surfaces. 

During Phase 1, farmers markets should continue to offer order ahead and pickup options. If markets choose to open, they may only do so in outdoor spaces and they must adhere to the following additional requirements for outdoor service:

  • Post signage at the entrance that states that no one with a fever or symptoms of COVID-19, or known exposure to a COVID-19 case in the prior 14 days, is permitted in the establishment or farmers market.
  • Post signage to provide public health reminders regarding physical distancing, gatherings, options for high risk individuals, and staying home if sick (See samples at the bottom of this document).
  • On-site shopping is allowed, as long as physical distancing guidelines are adhered to. Configure operations to avoid congestion or congregation points.
  • Employees and vendors working at the farmers markets must wear face coverings over their nose and mouth, such as using CDC Use of Cloth Face Coverings guidance.
  • Provide a minimum of six feet between parties at tables, (i.e., the six feet cannot include the space taken up by the seated guest). Spacing should also allow for physical distancing from areas outside of the facility’s control (i.e. provide physical distancing from persons on public sidewalks). 
  • Provide hand sanitizer stations or hand washing stations for patrons and employees.
  • Vendors must use enhanced cleaning and disinfecting practices to regularly clean and disinfect spaces and equipment.
  • Vendors and employees handling money should wash their hands between each transaction.

Best Practices

In addition to the requirements provided above, farmers markets are encouraged to utilize the following best practices to the extent they are feasible:

  • Promote no touch or low touch purchasing opportunities by pre-boxing or pre-bagging food items.
  • Update your website and social media with detailed instructions so patrons understand the expectations while at the market.
  • Discourage vendor sampling.
  • A mobile market could be used to reach communities with low food access but should comply with physical distancing guidelines for customers shopping and follow all recommended hygiene and sanitation protocols. 
  • Limit vendors to those selling food and horticultural products, or other handcrafted products critical for hygiene and sanitation such as handmade soaps and facemasks.
  • Encourage touchless payment systems.
  • Encourage customers to wear face coverings while entering, exiting, or otherwise traveling throughout the farmers market. Face coverings may be removed while seated.

Brick and Mortar Retail

All non-essential brick and mortar retail establishments

Phase I: Establishments must either implement the following mandatory requirements or close.

Mandatory Requirements

Businesses must strictly adhere to the physical distancing guidelines, enhanced cleaning and disinfection practices, and enhanced workplace safety practices provided in the “Guidelines for All Business Sectors” document. They must also adhere to the following additional requirements: 

  • Post signage at the entrance that states that no one with a fever or symptoms of COVID-19, or known exposure to a COVID-19 case in the prior 14 days, is permitted in the establishment.
  • Post signage to provide public health reminders regarding physical distancing, gatherings, options for high risk individuals, and staying home if sick (samples at bottom of this document).
  • Retailers must limit occupancy to 50% of the lowest occupancy load on the certificate of occupancy.
  • Retailers must assist customers in keeping at least six feet of space between individuals or households while shopping and waiting in line. Mark floors in six-foot increments in areas where customers will be congregating or standing in line such as cashier areas. If six feet of space cannot be maintained between checkout lines, only operate alternate checkout lines.
  • If seating is available, provide a minimum of six feet between tables; if tables are not movable, parties must be spaced at least six feet apart.
  • Meeting rooms and other enclosed spaces such as fitting rooms should be closed to customers.
  • Employees working in customer-facing areas are required to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth, such as using CDC Use of Cloth Face Coverings guidance.
  • Perform a thorough cleaning and disinfection of frequently contacted surfaces including digital ordering devices, self-service areas, countertops, bathroom surfaces, cashier stations, belts, shelves, cash machine pads, keyboards, order separation bars, and other high touch surfaces, at a minimum, every 2 hours. 
  • Eliminate stations where food or drink can be sampled. No self-service of food (except beverages), including condiments. Self-service beverage areas must use beverage equipment designed to dispense through a contamination-free method.
  • Ensure there is a way to sanitize shopping cart and basket handles: either make an EPA-approved disinfectant easily accessible to customers or have employees manage the process and sanitize between each customer use.

Best Practices

In addition to the requirements provided above, establishments are encouraged to utilize the following best practices to the extent they are feasible:

  • Provide sanitizing stations for customers and staff throughout the store, particularly at entry and exit points.
  • Consider managing customer movement utilizing one-way aisles or other directional instructions.
  • Encourage customers to wear face coverings while entering, exiting, or otherwise traveling throughout the store.
  • Consider reserving certain hours for senior citizens and other high-risk populations.
  • Provide opportunities to shop and pay online or on the phone whenever possible.
  • Provide options for home delivery, in store pickup, or curbside pickup whenever possible to minimize the number of customers in facilities.
  • When protective equipment such as face coverings are used, launder daily and wash hands after touching/adjusting face covering while working.
  • Use separate doors to enter and exit the establishment when possible.
  • Consider installing touchless door and sink systems or providing single-use barriers (e.g., deli tissues, paper towels) for use in touching door and sink handles.
  • Consider using a reservation system to schedule customer visits, including asking customers to set up a time to visit the showroom or sales floor to limit the number of customers in a facility.  
  • Prohibit congregating in break rooms or common areas and limit the capacity of such areas to allow for safe physical distancing of a minimum of six feet whenever possible.
  • If reusable shopping bags are permitted, ask customers to bag their own products/groceries.

Fitness and Exercise Facilities

Gymnasiums, recreation centers, swimming pools, indoor sports facilities, and indoor exercise facilities.

Phase I: Establishments must remain closed in Phase I. Establishments may offer limited outdoor fitness and exercise operations.

Mandatory Requirements

Businesses must strictly adhere to the physical distancing guidelines, enhanced cleaning and disinfection practices, and enhanced workplace safety practices provided in the “Guidelines for All Business Sectors” document. If businesses choose to offer fitness and exercise services, they may only do so in outdoor spaces and must adhere to the following additional requirements for outdoor operations:

  • Facilities should separate fitness equipment to ensure ten feet of separation between patrons, members, and guests using such equipment.
  • The number of participants in all group exercise and fitness classes and all recreational sporting events must be limited to no more than 10 participants. The instructor and all participants must maintain at least ten feet of physical distancing between each other.
  • Instructors and trainers must maintain at least ten feet of distance between themselves and their clients.
  • Employees working in customer-facing areas are required to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth, such as using CDC Use of Cloth Face Coverings guidance. Lifeguards responding to distressed swimmers are exempt from this requirement.
  • Provide hand sanitizing stations, including at the entrance/exit and where shared fitness equipment is utilized.
  • Employers must ensure cleaning and disinfection of shared equipment after each use.
  • Facilities must prohibit the use of any equipment that cannot be thoroughly disinfected between uses (e.g., climbing rope, exercise bands, etc.). Facilities must also prohibit the use of equipment requiring more than one person to operate, unless those operating are from the same household (e.g., free weights when it requires a spotter).
  • Hot tubs, spas, splash pads, spray pools, interactive play features, basketball courts, racquetball courts, and all seating in pool areas must be closed. Outdoor swimming pools may be open for lap swimming only, with one person per lane. Indoor swimming pools and related areas must remain closed.

Best Practices

In addition to the requirements provided above, establishments are encouraged to utilize the following best practices to the extent they are feasible:

  • Encourage patrons to wear face coverings. Face coverings may be removed while exercising as long as physical distancing is observed.
  • When protective equipment such as face coverings are used, launder daily and wash hands after touching/adjusting face covering while working.
  • Use disposable towels and linens where possible. All reusable towels, linens and other porous fabric should be laundered after single use. Store towels and linens in a closed, covered container prior to use.

Personal Care and Grooming Services

Beauty salons, barbershops, spas, massage centers, tanning salons, tattoo shops, and any other location where personal care or personal grooming services are performed.

Phase I: Establishments must either implement the following mandatory requirements or remain closed.

Mandatory Requirements

Businesses must strictly adhere to the physical distancing guidelines, enhanced cleaning and disinfection practices, and enhanced workplace safety practices provided in the “Guidelines for All Business Sectors” document. They must also adhere to the following additional requirements:

  • Post signage at the entrance that states that no one with a fever or symptoms of COVID-19, or known exposure to a COVID-19 case in the prior 14 days, is permitted in the establishment.
  • Post signage to provide public health reminders regarding physical distancing, gatherings, options for high-risk individuals, and staying home if sick (samples at bottom of this document).
  • Capacity must be limited to no more than 50% of the lowest occupancy load on the certificate of occupancy while maintaining a minimum of six feet of physical distancing between all individuals as much as possible.
  • Services must be provided by appointment only, with only one appointment per service provider at a time.
  • Stagger stations with at least six feet of separation.
  • Maintain physical distancing of at least six feet within the waiting area.
  • Staggered appointments must be utilized to minimize the number of individuals congregating in a waiting area and allow time to disinfect work stations and tools in between clients.
  • Employees and service providers working in customer-facing areas are required to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth, such as using CDC Use of Cloth Face Coverings guidance
  • Provide face coverings for clients or ask that clients bring a face covering with them that they must wear during the service. Limit services to only those that can be completed without clients removing their face covering.
  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after each service is performed, and, when gloves are worn, change gloves after each client’s service.
  • Perform thorough cleaning and disinfection of frequently contacted surfaces every 60 minutes; clean and disinfect all personal care and personal grooming tools after every use or discard.
  • Employers must maintain a list of the names and contact information for all clients, to include the date and time services are received.

Best Practices

In addition to the requirements provided above, establishments are encouraged to utilize the following best practices to the extent they are feasible:

  • Provide hand sanitizer at the reception area and all stations for employee and client use.
  • Remove commonly touched non-essential items such as magazines, self-serve coffee, and candy jars.
  • Where possible, use disposable towels, capes, and linens. All reusable towels, capes, linens and other porous fabric should be laundered after single use. Non-porous capes (e.g., plastic, vinyl) should be cleaned and disinfected after single use or discarded. Towels, capes, and linens should be stored in a closed, covered container prior to use.
  • When capes are used on clients, use a freshly laundered or disposable cape for each client.
  • Minimize to the greatest degree possible close, direct face-to-face contact with clients, such as allowing clients to be seated prior to approaching to perform a service.
  • When protective equipment such as face coverings are used, launder daily and wash hands after touching/adjusting face covering while working.
  • Use separate doors to enter and exit the establishment when possible.
  • Consider installing touchless door and sink systems or providing single-use barriers (e.g., deli tissues, paper towels) for use in touching door and sink handles.
  • Consider limiting the maximum time of services (e.g., no more than 1 hour).

Campgrounds and Summer Camps

Private campgrounds and overnight summer camps.

Phase I: Private campgrounds must either implement the following mandatory requirements or close. Overnight summer camps must remain closed in Phase I.

Mandatory Requirements

Businesses must strictly adhere to the physical distancing guidelines, enhanced cleaning and disinfection practices, and enhanced workplace safety practices provided in the “Guidelines for All Business Sectors” document. They must also adhere to the following additional requirements:

  • Post signage at the entrance that states that no one with a fever or symptoms of COVID-19, or known exposure to a COVID-19 case in the prior 14 days, is permitted in the establishment.
  • Post signage to provide public health reminders regarding physical distancing, gatherings, options for high risk individuals, and staying home if sick (samples at bottom of this document).
  • All lots rented for short term stays of less than 14 nights (and not owned by individuals) must maintain a minimum of 20 feet between units. 
  • All common areas that encourage gathering must remain closed such as pavilions, gazebos, picnic areas, etc. 
  • No physical sharing of recreation or sports equipment unless it is cleaned and disinfected with an  EPA-approved disinfectant. 
  • No day passes or visitors. Only persons listed on the registration are allowed on the property. 
  • It is recommended that campgrounds strongly encourage customers to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth.
  • No gatherings of greater than 10 people in one location. 
  • On site retail, recreation and fitness, cabins, and food establishments must follow the requirements and guidelines specific to those establishments. 
  • Employees working in customer-facing areas are required to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth, such as using CDC Use of Cloth Face Coverings guidance.
  • Provide hand washing in bath houses or sanitizing stations for guests and employees.

Religious Services

Phase I: Religious services must be conducted according to the following requirements.

Given the public health implications of the 2020 global pandemic, the Commonwealth’s diverse faith community quickly adjusted in response to this unprecedented crisis. 

Therefore, it is important that the diverse faith communities in Virginia stay informed with local, state, and national officials using the links below:

Mandatory Requirements

Religious services must strictly adhere to the following requirements:

  • Occupancy shall be limited to no more than 50% of the lowest occupancy load on the certificate of occupancy of the room or facility in which the religious services are conducted.
  • Individuals attending religious services must be seated at least six feet apart at all times and must practice physical distancing at all times. Family members, as defined in Executive Order 61, Order of Public Health Emergency Three, may be seated together. Mark seating in six-foot increments.
  • Individuals attending religious services are required to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth at all times (See CDC Use of Cloth Face Coverings guidance for more detailed information.).
  • No items must be passed to or between attendees who are not family members as defined in EO 61, Order of Public Health Emergency Three. 
  • Any items used to distribute food or beverages must be disposable and used only once and discarded.
  • A thorough cleaning and disinfection of frequently contacted surfaces must be conducted prior to and following any religious services.
  • Post signage at the entrance that states that no one with a fever or symptoms of COVID-19, or known exposure to a COVID-19 case in the prior 14 days, is permitted in the establishment.
  • Post signage to provide public health reminders regarding social distancing, gatherings, options for high risk individuals, and staying home if sick (samples at the bottom of this document). 
  • If any place of worship cannot adhere to the above requirements, it must not conduct in-person services.  Other suggested guidance for faith communities and funeral directors can be found below. 

Best Practices

In addition to the requirements provided above, faith communities are encouraged to utilize the following best practices to the extent they are feasible: 

  • Designate a health coordinator and/or health equity team who will be responsible for COVID-19 planning and preparation for your place of worship.
  • For the building:
    • Conduct thorough cleaning before and between services.
    • Use separate doors to enter and exit the establishment when possible. 
    • Allow interior doors to remain open to limit touching of door handles.
    • Provide sanitizing stations throughout the building, particularly at entry and exit points. 
    • Consider installing touchless door entry systems or providing single-use barriers (i.e., paper towels) for use in touching door and sink handles in bathroom facilities. 
    • Use messaging boards or digital messaging and social media for announcements to eliminate use of bulletins and handouts.
  • For weekly religious services:
    • Members are safer at home.  Continue to provide and encourage use of online streaming and drive-in options for people who can utilize these options. No place of worship should feel obligated to return to in-person worship before they are ready to do so.
    • Consider holding multiple services, with time for thorough cleaning in between each service, to allow for greater distancing during services.
    • Suspend the choir as part of services.
    • Consider shorter services to avoid the need for people to use bathroom facilities.
    • Consider limiting or suspending youth services until a safer time.
    • Consider holding small group or separate services for senior citizens and other high-risk populations
      • Consider making this the first service of the week, after thorough cleaning and disinfection of facilities have been performed. 
      • Ensure the use of face coverings and physical distancing is maintained between individuals at this service.
      • Ensure social distancing in parking lots or common areas.
    • Consider discontinuing use of common items (e.g., microphones, books, hymnals, scriptural texts) that may be shared between people and are difficult to clean. Consider assigning religious books to a family or individual that they can bring to each service, or use a projector for the display of sacred texts, scriptures, and songs.
    • When oils, water, ashes, or other materials are applied to a person’s forehead, self-application should be used, to the extent possible. 
    • Discontinue shared meals and other activities where people may gather in groups (e.g., limit or suspend coffee stations, shared food, meet and greet time before and after services etc.), with the exception of essential food services for low-income residents.
  • Possible methods for religious services:
    • Drive-in/parking lot church: This is the safer model of religious service where social distancing may be maintained.
    • Sign-up worship services: This will limit the number of live worship services. Ask members, visitors, or guests to sign up for one live service per month, or every other week (in Phase 1). If needed, members can take turns between online and in-person worship services during this interim time. Allow space for impromptu visitors by registering fewer people (for each worship or religious service) than the maximum allowed per the occupancy restrictions.
    • Multiple gatherings during the week: A place of worship may divide the number of congregants by the maximum occupancy level and offer worship services at that level. Consider adding online services, multiple services on one day, or alternative services during the week and/or on Saturdays and Sundays. 
    • Utilize multiple methods:  As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, most places of worship lost the ability to gather in-person, but many gained a stronger online presence. Consider nurturing both aspects for at-risk individuals, as well as for the increased capacity to reach and serve those outside of the walls of the faith organization.
    • Adult-only services: This method asks parents of young children to alternate worship attendance (naturally reducing attendance, as one parent stays home with children).
    • Online-only: Take this approach if you are in a high-risk area, your place of worship is not yet prepared with the conditions outlined in the state guidelines for opening, you or a member of your family has COVID-19 symptoms, or the governing authorities have requested additional measures in the interest of public health.

Communication Resources

Members and leaders of the diverse faith communities and funeral homes around the Commonwealth can receive a signage tool-kit and register to receive updated information from the Governor’s Office of Diversity and Partners in Prayer and Prevention from the Virginia Department of Health by contacting DEIDirector@governor.virginia.gov or OHE@vdh.virginia.gov

Resources to print and display: