Effective June 12, 2020, all counties, cities and towns in the Commonwealth of Virginia have entered Phase Two of the "Forward Virginia" plan for easing restrictions on certain business operations that were put in place in response to the novel coronavirus or COVID-19. Governor Ralph S. Northam issued Executive Order 65 setting forth the Phase Two requirements and issued Guidelines setting forth certain mandatory requirements and best practices for individuals, businesses and other organizations in Virginia during the Phase Two period (the "Phase Two Guidelines"). The Phase Two Guidelines outline best practices for all businesses in Virginia during the Phase Two period and set forth certain mandatory requirements and best practices during Phase Two for the following businesses and activities: social gatherings, restaurant and beverage services, farmers markets, brick-and-mortar retail businesses, fitness and exercise facilities, swimming pools, recreational sports, personal care and personal grooming services, campgrounds and overnight summer camps, entertainment and public amusement, and religious services.
Phase Two Easing of Restrictions
Under Phase Two, the Commonwealth's recommendations for social distancing, teleworking and requiring individuals to wear face coverings in indoor public settings remain in place. The maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase from 10 to 50 people. All businesses should continue to adhere to physical distancing guidelines, frequently clean and sanitize high-contact surfaces, and implement enhanced workplace safety measures.
During Phase Two, restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, cideries, mobile units (food trucks), distilleries, wineries and tasting rooms should continue to offer delivery and take-out options and may choose to provide indoor and/or outdoor dining, provided that occupancy may not exceed 50% of the lowest occupancy load listed on the certificate of occupancy, and such businesses must maintain a minimum of 6 feet of physical distancing between all individuals as much as possible. The other requirements and best practices for these businesses under the Phase Two Guidelines are similar to the requirements and best practices for Phase One.
The Phase Two Guidelines for farmers markets, brick-and-mortar retail businesses, personal care and personal grooming services, and religious services are similar to the requirements and best practices for Phase One.
During Phase Two, fitness centers, gymnasiums, recreation centers, sports facilities and exercise facilities may reopen for indoor and outdoor activities, provided that such businesses comply with the Phase Two Guidelines, including the requirements that patrons, members and guests must remain at least 10 feet apart during all activities and the total number of attendees (including both participants and instructors) in all group exercise and fitness classes cannot exceed the lesser of 30% of the minimum occupancy load on the certificate of occupancy or 50 persons. Additionally, indoor and outdoor swimming pools may open for lap swimming, diving, exercise and instruction only, subject to compliance with the Phase Two Guidelines.
Outdoor performing arts venues, outdoor concert venues, outdoor sports venues, outdoor movie theaters, museums, aquariums, zoos and botanical gardens may reopen, provided such businesses comply with the Phase Two Guidelines, including, but not limited to, the requirement that the total number of attendees (including both participants and spectators) cannot exceed the lesser of 50% of the occupancy load on the certificate of occupancy for the venue, if applicable, or 50 persons.
Executive Order 65 and the Phase Two Guidelines also set forth the requirements for the operation during Phase Two of campgrounds, public and private social clubs, indoor and outdoor recreational sports activities, outdoor racetracks and indoor shooting ranges.
The following recreational and entertainment businesses must remain closed to the public during Phase Two:
- indoor theaters, indoor performing arts centers, indoor concert venues and other indoor entertainment centers;
- historic horse racing facilities; and
- bowling alleys, skating rinks (except for recreational sports at such facilities), arcades, amusement parks, trampoline parks, fairs, carnivals, arts and craft facilities, escape rooms, overnight summer camps and other places of indoor public amusement.
The Virginia Department of Health and any other agency with regulatory authority over a business covered by Executive Order 65 has authority to enforce the Executive Order, and any willful violation or refusal, failure or neglect to comply is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor under Virginia law. Additionally, the State Health Commissioner may seek injunctive relief in circuit court for any violation of Executive Order 65.
Venable will continue to monitor actions the Commonwealth of Virginia is taking in response to COVID-19, and we are available to offer clients guidance and support as we collectively navigate these challenging times.