As the DC area begins to relax many of the government-enacted restrictions imposed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses should remain alert to their rights and responsibilities. This article details the restrictions incumbent on businesses in these early stages as well as the length of time for which businesses should expect to remain in the reopening phase period. Please note that information regarding COVID-19 changes daily and that as a result, governmental responses to those changes are similarly dynamic; check your state and local health authorities’ websites for the most up-to-date information regarding your rights and responsibilities. If your business is seeking planning advice or legal assistance in these uncertain times, call the experienced attorneys at JDKatz, P.C. today.
The District of Columbia
On May 29, 2020, the District of Columbia lifted its Stay-at-Home Order and began “Phase One” of re-opening. While the Mayor’s declaration of a Public Health Emergency remains in effect til at least July 24, 2020, and gatherings of more than ten people remain prohibited, certain businesses may begin to commence modified operations under detailed guidelines. Non-essential retail businesses, for example, may engage in curbside pickup (though indoor shopping remains prohibited).
Check out the D.C. Government’s website for more information, including guidance specific to particular business sectors.
Phase One will continue until the District has experienced fourteen days of a sustained decrease in community spread, a transmission rate of less than one for five days, a positivity rate below 15% for a seven-day period, and sufficient health care capacity for fourteen days, among other metrics (including high-level efficiency in contact tracing). While the District initially projected Phase Two would begin on June 19, 2020, Mayor Muriel Bowser has since indicated a likely delay to that target date.
On June 3, 2020, Governor Larry Hogan announced Maryland’s progression to “Phase Two” of re-opening beginning on June 5, 2020. As with Phase One — in which every Maryland jurisdiction was operating at the time of the announcement — counties retain the flexibility to determine when they’d like to begin re-opening consistent with this new Phase. As such, the City of Baltimore and Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties have remained in Phase One.
Under Phase Two, more non-essential businesses like auto dealerships and tanning salons may re-open under new capacity limitations and subject to other restrictions. State officials and the Maryland Coronavirus Recovery Team are responsible for making the qualitative determination that the state is ready to proceed to Phase Three.
For more information on the progression of re-opening, check out the Governor’s website.
On June 9, 2020, Governor Ralph Northam announced the entirety of Virginia – including high-density Northern Virginia, contrary to previous reports — would move into “Phase Two” of re-opening on Friday, June 12, 2020. In this new phase, gatherings of more than fifty people remain prohibited, but restaurants may offer indoor seating at 50% capacity, gyms and fitness centers will be able to offer indoor classes with 30% capacity, and entertainment venues can open with some restrictions. Much of the state moved into Phase Two earlier in June, but the Governor granted Northern Virginia and Richmond delays due to relatively higher infection rates and failures to clear necessary contact tracing and personal protective equipment (PPE) benchmarks.
Phase Two is the second of three stages marking Virginia’s re-opening. While the Governor and other state health officials track certain key measures in making re-opening progression determinations, these authorities have not published quantitative thresholds that would indicate a progression to Phase Three.
For more information on Phase Two guidelines specific to particular business sectors, check out the Governor’s order here.
By Maria L. Stratienko, Law Clerk