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Forward Virginia: Phase One

Frequently Asked Questions

What businesses can operate in Phase I?

The following businesses may operate in a limited capacity: 

  • Restaurants and beverage services may operate delivery and takeout as well as outdoor service at 50% occupancy load with at least 6 feet of spacing between tables. 
  • Farmers markets may operate order ahead and pickup options as well as on-site shopping and seating at tables, as long as six feet of separation can be maintained between guests (including between tables and persons on public sidewalks). 
  • Non-essential retail may operate at 50% occupancy load. 
  • Personal care and personal grooming services may operate at 50% occupancy load by appointment only, with one client per service provider. 
  • Private campgrounds may operate with at least 20 feet of separation between lots used for stays of less than 14 days. Campgrounds may continue to operate lots that are reserved for stays longer than 14 days. 

The following businesses must remain closed to the public in Phase I: 

  • Theaters, performing arts centers, concert venues, museums, and other indoor entertainment centers; 
  • Fitness centers, gymnasiums, recreation centers, indoor swimming pools, indoor sports facilities, and indoor exercise facilities. Outdoor fitness and exercise services may occur, and outdoor pools may open for lap swimming only with one person per lane. 
  • Racetracks and historic horse racing facilities; 
  • Bowling alleys, skating rinks, arcades, amusement parks, trampoline parks, fairs, arts and craft facilities, aquariums, zoos, escape rooms, public and private clubs, and all other places of indoor public amusement; and 
  • Overnight summer camps. 

The full list of limitations may be found in Executive Order 61.

I am not a business sector explicitly listed in the Executive Order, but I believe that I am an essential business. What should I do?

Where feasible and practicable, all workplaces should follow the Guidelines for All Business Sectors, including the recommendations for physical distancing, enhanced cleaning and sanitization, and enhanced workplace safety. These guidelines may be found here.

Are there restrictions for any other categories of business?

All other categories of business should utilize teleworking as much as possible. Where telework is not feasible, such businesses should adhere to the Guidelines for All Business Sectors, including the recommendations for physical distancing, enhanced cleaning and sanitization, and enhanced workplace safety. These guidelines may be found here. 

The following sources provide additional workplace guidance for operations that remain open:

Restaurant and Beverage Services

What are the restrictions for food and beverage establishments?

Restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, and farmers markets must close their indoor seating, indoor bars, and congregating areas. They may operate delivery, takeout, and outdoor service. 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. 

Employers must provide face coverings for employees, and they must be worn in customer dining and service areas. The detailed set of requirements for food and beverage establishments may be found here.

Are customers allowed to self-serve food from a buffet or food bar (e.g., hot/cold buffet, ice cream toppings bar, etc.) in a restaurant, retail food establishment, or grocery store?

No. Self-service is not allowed.

Is customer self-service of beverages allowed?

Yes, but only if customers can self-dispense drinks by a touchless method. Touchless dispensing of beverages activated by a held cup may be used; touch screen machines are not a touchless system.

Do back-to-to back style booths in outdoor dining areas meet the social distancing requirements?

No. For back-to-back booths, an alternating seating system needs to be implemented to ensure six feet of separation between individuals.

Can I seat customers at an outdoor bar if I install a plexiglass divider/shield like those used in grocery stores?

No. You may not seat customers at an outdoor bar if it is directly adjacent to a workspace used to prepare beverages or other food items or to store foodservice equipment. Non-bar seating in the 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.

What do I need to know about my food establishment and outdoor seating?

Employee face covering, signage, and physical distancing requirements apply to this space. Table spacing must allow for physical distancing from areas outside the facility’s control (e.g., provide physical distancing from persons on public sidewalks or an adjoining restaurants’ outdoor dining). 

If the outdoor dining space is included in the Virginia Uniform Building Code determination of building capacity, then seating in this area may not exceed 50% occupancy load. 

The building and zoning requirements of your locality apply to any proposed change to your customer seating capacity (e.g., tented area, picnic tables). Tented areas may not be enclosed.

Can I go into the building to use the restrooms?

Yes. Avoid congregating indoors to stand in line.

If I can roll up a garage door or open wall-length windows, can the interior of my restaurant be considered outdoor dining?

No. This is indoor seating and not allowed in Phase 1.

Brick and Mortar Retail

What are the restrictions for non-essential retail businesses?

Non-essential retail businesses must limit their operations to no more than 50% occupancy load with adequate physical distancing of 6 beet between customers. If they cannot limit their operations to no more than 50% occupancy with adequate physical distancing, then they must close. Employers must provide face coverings for employees and they must be worn in customer-facing areas. The detailed set of requirements for non-essential retail may be found here.

What are the non-essential retail businesses that are restricted in their operations?

Non-essential retail businesses are brick-and-mortar operations that consist of everything except the following: 

  • Grocery, pharmacy, and other retailers that sell food and beverage products or pharmacy products, including dollar stores and department stores with grocery or pharmacy operations; 
  • Medical supply retailers;
  • Electronic retailers that sell or service cell phones, computers, tablets, and other communications technology;
  • Automotive parts, accessories, and tire retailers;
  • 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.

Are there any restrictions for essential retail businesses?

Where feasible and practicable, all workplaces should follow the Guidelines for All Business Sectors, including the recommendations for physical distancing, enhanced cleaning and sanitization, and enhanced workplace safety. Additionally, employers at essential retail businesses must provide face coverings for employees.

Personal Care and Personal Grooming

What are the restrictions for personal care and personal grooming businesses?

Personal care and personal grooming businesses must limit their operations to no more than 50% of the occupancy load with at least 6 feet between stations and no more than one client per service provider at a time. If they cannot limit their operations in such a way, then they must close. Employees and service providers must wear face coverings. Clients must also wear face coverings while the personal care or personal grooming service is performed. 

The detailed set of requirements for personal care and personal grooming operations may be found here.

I provide personal care or personal grooming services. What if the band or attachment for my client’s face covering is getting in the way of my services? Can they remove it?

Employees and customers of personal care and personal grooming facilities must wear face coverings at all times. Employers and clients should consider using face coverings that are secured with ear loops. If in the course of providing services, the tie or loop securing your clients face covering must be moved, ask that your client move the tie or loop temporarily while holding the mask in place. Be careful that you and your clients do not touch their eyes, nose, or mouth when adjusting the tie or loop.

I provide personal care or personal grooming services. My workstations are fixed and less than six feet apart. Can I use all of my workstations at the same time?

No. If stations are fixed and cannot be moved to maintain six feet of separation, then you will need to close enough stations to provide at least six feet of separation between work areas.

Private Campgrounds

What are the restrictions for private campgrounds?

Private campgrounds may rent lots for stays shorter than 14 days and may continue to rent lots for stays longer than 14 days. For stays shorter than 14 days, private campgrounds must provide at least 20 feet of separation between units. Employees working in customer-facing 

areas must wear face coverings. The detailed set of requirements for private campgrounds may be found here.

Can I open my campground recreation facilities and pool?

All common areas that encourage gathering (e.g., pavilions, gazebos, picnic areas) are to remain closed. Group activities should not be conducted. Outdoor pools may open for lap swimming only, with one person per lane.

Exercise and Fitness

What restrictions apply to exercise and fitness facilities?

The indoor portions of these facilities must remain closed, but facilities may provide fitness and exercise services in outdoor areas. 

Equipment should be spaced 10 feet apart in order for patrons to maintain physical distance. All staff should maintain at least ten feet of separation from patrons and each other at all times. Facilities are required to perform thorough cleaning and disinfection of frequently contacted surfaces every 60 minutes, while disinfecting all equipment between each customer and prohibiting the use of equipment that cannot be thoroughly disinfected (e.g., climbing ropes, exercise bands). 

Facilities should 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 requiring a spotter). This equipment should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between customers. 

The full set of guidelines may be found here.

Can I offer instructor-led classes at a gym/studio?

Yes, but all classes must take place outside. The number of participants in all group exercise and fitness classes must be 10 or less per class. The instructor and all participants must maintain at least ten feet of physical distancing between each other.

Can a pool, hot tub, splash pad, steam room, or other aquatic facility open?

Outdoor swimming pools may be open for lap swimming only, with one person per lane. Hot tubs, spas, splash pads, spray pools, interactive play features, saunas, and all seating or spectator areas in pool areas must be closed.

Are swim lessons allowed?

Lessons that require instructor contact are prohibited. Lessons that use lap swimming only and allow swimmers and instructors to maintain ten feet of physical distance are permitted, but seating and observation areas must remain closed.

Is the swimming pool water a risk to transmit the virus?

No. There is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas, or water play areas. Proper operation and maintenance (including disinfection with chlorine and bromine) of these facilities should inactivate the virus in the water.

What about organized sports?

All recreational sports must be held outside and are limited to no more than 10 participants while maintaining at least 10 feet of physical distance at all times.

Who has to wear a cloth face covering at the gym?

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. 

Patrons are encouraged to wear cloth face coverings. Face coverings may be removed while exercising as long as physical distancing is observed.

Religious Services

What about religious services? Can I still go to my church, synagogue, or mosque?

Virginians are strongly encouraged to seek alternative means of attending religious services, such as virtually or via “drive-through” worship. Beginning at 12am on Friday, May 15, 2020, religious services may occur at 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. The full set of guidelines for religious services may be found here.

What about weddings and funerals?

Religious services may occur at no more than 50% of the lowest occupancy load on the certificate of occupancy of the room or facility in which religious services are conducted. Any social gathering held in connection with a religious service is subject to the ban on public and private in-person gatherings of more than 10 people.

What is drive-through worship? What about drive-in church?

Attendees may travel to their place of worship, park in the parking lot and listen to the religious message while remaining in their vehicles. Participants must remain in their vehicle at all times, except as necessary to visit a restroom. 

Any interaction by the faith leaders and those in the vehicles must be strictly limited, such as using social distancing methods when passing out palms, serving Holy Communion using sealed or self-contained elements, and priests directing congregants to place ashes or water on their own forehead as opposed to priests applying the ashes or water directly on the foreheads of the congregants. 

Any objects used for collecting monetary offerings shall not be passed from attendee to attendee but may be offered to attendees in a vehicle as long as the object stays in the possession of the person assisting with collection. Appropriate measures should be taken for the safety of those functioning outside of the cars. Faith communities should also adhere to any noise ordinances.

Workplace Protections

What employees need to wear face coverings while working?

Employees (including owners and managers) working in customer-facing areas of food and beverage establishments (including drive-thru window staff), farmers markets, gyms and fitness centers, essential and non-essential brick and mortar retail, campgrounds, and personal care or personal grooming are required to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth, using CDC’s Use of Cloth Face Coverings guidance

Where six feet of physical distance is not possible in any business setting, all other employers should provide face coverings to employees. 

Cloth face coverings may prevent people who don’t know they have the virus from transmitting it to others. For the categories above, it is not recommended that these face coverings be surgical masks or respirators. However, cloth face coverings are not appropriate substitutes for surgical masks or respirators in workplaces where masks or respirators are recommended or required. 

The full set of guidelines may be found here.

Should businesses deny entry to customers not wearing a cloth face covering?

All businesses should encourage customers to wear cloth face coverings. However, clients of personal care and grooming businesses are required to wear face coverings while the service is performed.

I have a sick employee. Should I require them to provide a doctor’s note or positive COVID-19 test result?

No. Employers should not require sick employees to provide a COVID-19 test result or a healthcare provider’s note to validate their illness, qualify for sick leave, or to return to work. Healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely manner.

I don’t provide sick leave to my employees. What should I do?

Employers that do not currently offer sick leave to some or all of their employees are encouraged to draft non-punitive “emergency sick leave” policies. Ensure that sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of and understand these policies.

Should I screen my employees for COVID-19 symptoms prior to a shift?

All businesses should screen employees prior to a shift. Screening can be handled by requiring employees to conduct self-checks (asking the employee to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, including measuring temperature before each work shift) before reporting to work. 

See VDH Interim Guidance for Implementing Safety Practices for Critical Infrastructure Workers During Widespread Community Transmission.

My employer remains open, but I am concerned that they are not following health and safety guidelines. What do I do?

All businesses are strongly recommended to adhere to the Guidelines for All Business Sectors, including the recommendations for physical distancing, enhanced cleaning and sanitization, and enhanced workplace safety. These guidelines may be found here. 

The Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH) Program through the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) is responsible for enforcing occupational safety and health laws and regulations in the private and public sectors. For more information about VOSH standards or to file a complaint against an employer for failing to comply with the Governor’s COVID_19-related directives, please visit https://www.osha.gov/workers/file_complaint.html.

I see a business breaking the rules. Where do I report them?

For food and beverage establishments, farmers markets, brick and mortar retail, fitness and exercise facilities, personal care and personal grooming services, campgrounds, and indoor shooting ranges, the Virginia Department of Health has the authority to enforce COVID- 19-related directives. Any willful violation or refusal, failure, or neglect to comply with this Order, issued pursuant to § 32.1-13 of the Code of Virginia is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor pursuant to § 32.1-27 of the Code of Virginia. The State Health Commissioner may also seek injunctive relief in circuit court for violation of this Order, pursuant to § 32.1-27 of the Code of Virginia. In addition, any agency with regulatory authority over a business listed in section A may enforce this Order as to that business to the extent permitted by law. 

Violations of the prohibition on public or private in-person gatherings of more than 10 individuals shall be a Class 1 misdemeanor pursuant to § 44-146.17 of the Code of Virginia. 

Violations of the continued restrictions for certain recreational and entertainment businesses shall be a Class 1 misdemeanor pursuant to § 44-146.17 of the Code of Virginia. 

The full text of Executive Order 61 may be found here.

Implementation

When do the Phase I restrictions go into effect?

Governor Northam signed Executive Order 61, which provides for an easing of business restrictions for certain categories of businesses beginning at 12:00am on Friday, May 15, 2020. The full text of Executive Order 61 may be found here.

Will this order be changed?

Governor Northam, in consultation with State Health Commissioner Oliver, may adjust this order or issue new orders as needed, given the quickly-changing public health situation.

Am I still required to stay at home until June 10? Will customers be able to travel to my business before June 10?

Executive Order 61 amends the previous stay-at-home requirement in Executive Order 55. When Phase I begins, individuals may leave their homes to visit any of the businesses that are able to operate under Executive Order 61. However, Governor Northam is urging Virginians to limit all non-essential travel outside the home, if and when possible. If you choose to go to the park, for a walk, or exercise outside, please practice strict social distancing and keep six feet apart from others. All public and private in-person gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited.

Does the prohibition on public and private gatherings of more than 10 individuals apply to my business?

No, the prohibition applies to social gatherings but does not apply to a business setting. Where feasible and practicable, workplaces should require telework. For operations where telework is not feasible, we strongly recommend adhering to the Guidelines for All Business Sectors, including the recommendations for physical distancing, enhanced cleaning and sanitization, and enhanced workplace safety. These guidelines may be found here.

What does Phase II look like?

Phase II will include a further easing of restrictions on individuals and businesses. Governor Northam has not yet announced the details of Phase II, but will do so after Phase I is in place.

Can my locality move faster/slower?

Regions or localities may submit a request to the Governor for a slower implementation between phases, but no region or locality may enact fewer restrictions on businesses than the Commonwealth.

When do we move into Phase II?

Governor Northam, in consultation with State Health Commissioner Oliver, will adjust the Executive Order that currently sets forth the Phase I restrictions when the public health data supports a further easing of restrictions. Given the quickly-changing public health situation, we are unable to provide a firm date when this will occur.

Other Categories

Are hotels able to operate in Phase I?

Hotels may continue to operate in Phase I, subject to the gathering ban requirements that limit all in-person social gatherings to 10 people or fewer. Any food and beverage or fitness facility within a hotel must follow the guidelines provided for those business categories, which may be found here.

What about shopping malls?

Non-essential retail is limited to 50% occupancy. Each store within a shopping mall must not exceed 50% occupancy. The mall itself must not exceed 50% occupancy in any congregation areas, implement physical distancing measures, and close indoor dining rooms and congregation areas. Any food and beverage or personal care facility within a shopping mall must follow the guidelines provided for those business categories, which may be found here.

What about car dealerships?

Auto repair and service are considered essential and are not impacted. Sales and showrooms are considered non-essential retail and must follow the guidelines below: 

Non-essential retail businesses must limit their operations to 50% occupancy with adequate social distancing. If they cannot limit their operations to no more than 50% occupancy with adequate social distancing, then they must close.

Am I required to present any documentation proving I am traveling for an essential purpose?

No. Virginia law enforcement will not require documentation from individuals that are traveling for an essential purpose.

Should I wear a face covering or other protective equipment during travel, including travel on mass transit or ride shares?

If mass transit is necessary, wear a face covering, using CDC Use of Cloth Face Coverings guidance. Wearing a face covering may prevent people who don’t know they have the virus from transmitting it to others.

What should I do if another rider on mass transit is coughing or sneezing?

Avoid sitting close to them and do your best to stay at least six feet away.

Can our school host a graduation ceremony?

EO61 maintains a prohibition on gatherings of more than 10 people. Therefore, in-person gatherings of more than 10 people, including graduation ceremonies, are not allowed at this time, in Phase 1.  

Acceptable alternatives to graduation ceremonies include: 

  1. Drive-up ceremonies:
    Families must remain in their car, cars must be parked 6 feet apart from each other (e.g. every other parking space), and the number of cars allowed to attend at any given time should be limited to a reasonable size, such as 50. If it is anticipated that individuals can't/won't remain in their cars,  this method should not be used. If presenters are on a shared stage/platform, they should maintain physical distancing and wear face coverings.
     
  2. Walk-up by appointment graduation ceremonies: 
    Each family is given a scheduled time to receive their diploma, the number of people in the ceremony/pick up should not exceed 10 people, including faculty/staff.  All attendees should wear face coverings and maintain 6 foot distance. Families should not congregate in a waiting area, waiting area should be limited to no more than 10 persons at one time. Schools should consider streaming of ceremonies so extended family members/friends can watch virtually.

  3. "Curbside"  Diploma PickUp:  
    Similar to curbside food service/pickup, families can drive through to pick up diploma/certificates. Staff should wear face coverings, and students should be encouraged to wear face coverings as well. 

Hand sanitizer should be readily available for staff handing out diploma and breaks staggered to allow for handwashing.