On June 9, 2020, Governor Ralph Northam announced that Northern Virginia and Richmond will join the rest of the state in entering Phase Two on June 12, 2020, taking the next step to reopening the region.  Governor Northam’s Executive Order 65 further eased temporary restrictions throughout most of the Commonwealth of Virginia, initiating the “Safer at Home: Phase Two” strategy on June 5, 2020.

As we previously wrote, the Northern Virginia Region and Richmond entered Phase One on May 29, 2020.  In Phase Two, most of the restrictions remain fairly similar to Phase One reopening guidelines, with the most notable changes allowing for more indoor activities and increasing the size of permissible social gatherings from 10 to 50 individuals.

  • Foodservice Establishments may operate delivery, take-out, indoor and outdoor dining, and beverage services, provided they:
    • do not exceed 50% of the lowest occupancy load on the certificate of occupancy;
    • limit all parties, whether seated together or across multiple tables, to 50 patrons or less;
    • position tables six feet apart, unless the tables cannot be moved, in which case the parties must be seated at least six feet apart from other parties;
    • staff buffets with servers, and remove self-service food (except beverages), including condiments (which should be removed from tables and dispensed by employees);
    • use only self-service beverage areas that have equipment designed to dispense by a contamination-free method;
    • close bar seats and congregating areas to patrons except for through-traffic;
    • require employees working in customer-facing areas to wear face coverings; and
    • conduct a thorough cleaning and disinfection of frequently contacted surfaces every 60 minutes during operation, and clean tabletops, chairs, and credit card/bill folders in between patrons.
  • Nonessential Retail Establishments must:
    • limit occupancy to no more than 50% of the lowest occupancy load on the certificate of occupancy; and
    • require employees working in customer-facing areas to wear face coverings.
  • Fitness and Exercise Facilities may reopen for indoor and outdoor activities so long as:
    • patrons, members, and guests remain at least ten feet apart during all activities, including any group activities;
    • the total number of attendees in all group exercise and fitness classes does not exceed the lesser of 30% of the minimum occupancy load or 50 patrons, members, and guests;
    • hot tubs, spas, slash pads, spray pools, and interactive play features remain closed;
    • outdoor swimming pools are open for lap swimming, diving exercise, and instruction only and must be limited to three people per lane with at least ten feet of distance per swimmer;
    • employees working in customer-facing areas wear face coverings;
    • employers clean and disinfect shared equipment after each use;
    • facilities prohibit the use of any equipment that cannot be thoroughly disinfected between uses; and
    • businesses provide hand sanitizer stations or hand washing stations for patrons, members, and guests.
  • Personal Care and Personal Grooming services, which include beauty salons, barbershops, spas, massage centers, tanning salons, and tattoo shops, may reopen so long as:
    • occupancy does not exceed 50% of the lowest occupancy load on the certificate of occupancy;
    • there is at least six feet of physical distancing between work stations and only two appointments per service provider at a time;
    • service providers and employees working in customer-facing areas wear face coverings;
    • customers are provided with coverings or customers are asked to bring a face covering with them, which they must wear during the service;
    • services provided are limited to those that can be completed without clients removing their face coverings; and
    • a thorough cleaning and disinfection of frequently-contacted surfaces is conducted every 60 minutes in operation, and all personal care and grooming tools are cleaned and disinfected, or discarded, after each use.
  • Recreational and Entertainment Businesses, including outdoor performing arts venues, outdoor concert venues, outdoor sports venues, outdoor movie theaters, museums, aquariums, zoos, and botanical gardens may reopen so long as the business:
    • limits the total number of attendees (including attendees and participants) to the lesser of 50% of the occupancy load of the venue or 50 persons;
    • installs visible markers for queue lines that separate people by six feet of physical distance;
    • creates a guest flow plan of modified queue lines into and within the facility, determining any areas likely to become bottlenecks or pinch points and adjusting guest flow accordingly;
    • performs a thorough cleaning and disinfection of frequently-contacted surfaces, including digital ordering devices, check presenters, self-services areas, tabletops, bathroom surfaces, and other common touch areas, every 60 minutes during operation;
    • where possible, installs sneeze guards in front of commonly used point-of-sale or guest service stations;
    • requires employees working in customer-facing areas to wear face coverings; and
    • provides hand sanitizer stations or hand washing stations for patrons, members, and guests.
  • Indoor Shooting Ranges may reopen with limitations similar to the above restrictions.

Campgrounds, public beaches, racetracks, and public and public and private social clubs may also reopen under Phase Two, and recreational sports activities may begin.

Employers should remain cognizant of Executive Order No. 63, which details the requirements for wearing face coverings inside buildings.  While these requirements predominantly apply to patrons, the order specifically requires employees of essential retail businesses to wear face coverings whenever working in customer-facing areas.

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As Northern Virginia moves into the next phase of reopening, businesses should continue revising their written plans to meet the new, more lenient requirements.  Developing a comprehensive reopening and safety plan that evolves as reopening in the area continues is a best practice that will aid employers in setting expectations for employees, addressing employee safety concerns, and limiting liability.  Employers should also train their staff on the plan and its requirements.

As every jurisdiction opens at different rates, businesses should be mindful of the changing requirements and ensure that their policies and practices evolve to meet these requirements.  Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. continues to monitor developments in the DMV and throughout the country.  Readers may contact the authors or their EBG attorney with any questions or needs for assistance in reopening or addressing any other COVID-19-related issue.