January 24, 2021

Volume XI, Number 24

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January 22, 2021

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Slowdown in the DMV: District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia Tighten Business Restrictions as COVID-19 Cases Climb

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the nation, the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia all recently have implemented additional mitigation measures that impact business operations.  Below is a summary of the key restrictions of which businesses within the DMV should be aware.

District of Columbia

The District of Columbia maintains a compilation of Phase Two Guidance to assist all businesses in reopening (or staying open) responsibly.  Recently, on November 6, 2020, Mayor Muriel Bowser issued Mayor’s Order 2020-110, which modifies previous quarantine guidelines for visitors traveling to the District and for residents returning home.  This modified order will impact whether and when employees may return to work after traveling outside of the DMV.

Effective immediately, the following restrictions apply:

  1. District residents – District residents who travel outside the DMV area – except for those traveling to perform essential work or for essential activities, such as obtaining medical care – must, upon their return, either limit daily activities and self-monitor for 14 days upon return, or limit daily activities until obtaining a COVID-19 test within 3-5 days upon return and receiving a negative PCR test result.

  2. Visitors to DC – Non-District residents visiting from any state or country other than a low-risk jurisdiction – except those from Maryland or Virginia, essential workers, those visiting for less than 24 hours, and, in certain circumstances, individuals traveling for a family emergency or funeral – should be tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours prior to arrival. Visitors staying in D.C. for more than 3 days should limit their activities until they obtain a second negative test result administered within 3-5 days after arrival.  Visitors should not come to the District if they test positive for COVID-19 or if they were in close contact with a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19.  Private institutions, including employers, hotels, hospitals, and congregate care facilities, may demand individuals produce a record of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival to the District before allowing visitors to enter their facilities.

  3. Highrisk jurisdiction – D.C. has expanded its list of high-risk states to include 42 states.

Maryland

On November 10, 2020, Governor Larry Hogan issued Executive Order 20-11-10-01, which amends and restates prior orders regarding reopening and the use of face coverings.  Notable provisions of the order include:

  1. Face covering requirement – Individuals aged five (5) and older must wear a face covering (a) at work, when either interacting with others is likely or where food is prepared or packaged; (b) in most indoor locations; (c) in or on public transportation; (d) while obtaining healthcare services; (e) at an outdoor sporting or entertainment venue; or (e) any other outdoor location where physical distancing is not possible.

  2. Occupancy limitations – Statewide, retail establishments must limit occupancy to 75% of maximum capacity, while nearly all other establishments (foodservice, personal service, fitness centers, entertainment venues, and casinos) must limit occupancy to 50% of maximum capacity.

  3. Local orders – Importantly, local jurisdictions are authorized to implement requirements that are more restrictive than those in the statewide Executive Order.

Both Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties have issued their own local orders:

  1. Montgomery County – On November 10, 2020, Montgomery County Executive Marc Erlich issued Executive Order 122-20, which, among other things:

    • extends the face covering requirement to all individuals aged two (2) and older;

    • prohibits gatherings of more than 25 people at locations, including parties, receptions, parades, festivals, and fundraisers;

    • limits capacity to 25% for indoor foodservice establishments, retail establishments, fitness centers, museums and art galleries, and religious facilities;

    • prohibits foodservice establishments from selling alcohol after 10 p.m.; and

    • requires restaurants to maintain a record of all indoor and outdoor patrons, for at least 30 days, to assist with contract tracing.

  1. Prince George’s County – On November 12, 2020, Prince George’s County Health Officer Ernest L. Carter issued a Directive and Order for Enhanced Consumer and Employee Safety, which, among other things:

    • limits indoor gatherings to 1 person per 200 square feet, or 10 people, whichever is lower, and outdoor gatherings to 1 person per 200 square feet, or 25 people, whichever is lower;

    • limits capacity of indoor restaurants to 1 patron per 200 square feet, or 25% capacity, whichever is lower; and capacity of retail establishments to 1 person per 200 square feet, or up to 50% capacity, whichever is lower;

    • requires restaurants to maintain a record of all patrons for at least 30 days to assist with contact tracing, and to post signage regarding face coverings and physical distancing; and

    • requires most people over the age of five (5) to wear a face mask or covering, even when outdoors, unless vigorously exercising.

Virginia

On November 13, 2020, Governor Ralph Northam issued Sixth Amended Executive Order 67, which adjusts temporary restrictions and updates guidance to businesses operating within the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as Amended Executive Order 63, which expands the requirement to wear face coverings in Virginia.

Notably, these Executive Orders, which went into effect at midnight on November 15, 2020, include the following restrictions:

  1. Limitations to size of gatherings – All public and private in-person gatherings (whether indoor or outdoor) must be limited to 25 people, which is a decrease from the prior cap of 250 people. Although the presence of 25 or more people in an office does not constitute a gathering, the orders place new restrictions on occupancy in various industries.

  2. Mandatory operating requirements for essential retail businesses – While all businesses are encouraged to comply with Virginia’s Guidelines for All Business Sectors, essential retail businesses must comply with the guidelines or close. Critically, the Virginia Department of Health will enforce violations of these guidelines as a Class One Misdemeanor.

  3. Restaurant/bar curfews and restrictions on alcohol sales – Restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, and tasting rooms must now stop the on-site sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol after 10:00 p.m. in their facilities, and must close by midnight.

  4. Expansion of face covering mandate – All employees of essential retail businesses must wear a face covering whenever working in customer facing areas. In addition, the general requirement of individuals to wear face coverings when inside buildings has been expanded to apply to those aged five (5) and over.

All other requirements of Executive Orders 63 and 67 remain in place.

*    *    *

As COVID-19 cases spike and the situation continues to evolve, businesses should revisit their operational and safety plans to ensure they meet the specified requirements in each jurisdiction in which they operate.  Operational and safety plans are now required in D.C. and Virginia, and developing a comprehensive plan is a recommended best practice.

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©2020 Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume X, Number 322
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