Regional Re-Open Statuses Vary as No.Va. Readies for Phase 2

On Tuesday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced that all of Northern Virginia would enter Phase 2 of the Forward Virginia re-opening plan. Beginning Friday, the region will adopt the guidelines outlined by Executive Order 65, which include a limited re-opening of indoor dining, fitness centers, and certain outdoor spaces including concert venues, botanical gardens, and museums.

All re-opened businesses will be subject to capacity limits as outlined in the state’s phase two guidelines; most will be limited to 50 percent of their lowest published capacity, while certain services like fitness centers will be able to re-open at 30 percent capacity. Telework will continue to be recommended where at all possible. Much of the commonwealth, outside of Northern Virginia and Richmond, entered stage two last week.

The phase two rules do not mark a major shift for auto retailers in Northern Virginia, which were already allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity, while encouraging social distancing through visible signage and floor spacing. Please review the phase two guidelines for brick and mortar retailers, beginning on page 17, for the requirements under phase two. Masks remain mandatory, and these rules remain enforceable by the Virginia Department of Health, which has the power to shutter non-compliant businesses.

Under phase two, auto repair facilities, which are defined as “essential services,” will be asked follow the state’s phase two recommendations, but only as best practices, with less exposure to state enforcement (outside of the mask requirement). That said, we strongly recommend that all our Virginia members do everything they can to adhere to all safety guidelines as if they were mandated, particularly in retailers like auto dealerships that offer both essential and non-essential services.

In Maryland, every county except Montgomery and Prince George’s, plus Baltimore city, have entered the state’s version of “stage two” under the Roadmap to Recovery plan. Maryland’s “phase two” executive order is more stringent than Virginia’s version, as some services like indoor dining and fitness center use remain closed, but it does allow for many indoor retailers to operate at 50 percent of their normal patron capacity, while adhering to social distancing best-practices published by the state.

Currently, Montgomery and Prince George’s, which account for more than half of the state’s confirmed COVID-19 cases, are in a modified version of a stage one reopening. Non-essential retail is only available through curbside delivery, while essential retailers, which include auto dealerships, may conduct business by appointment only, as they have been allowed to throughout the pandemic.

Earlier this week, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said her county would potentially shift into a modified version of stage two next Monday, with more details forthcoming later in the week. In Montgomery County, which has produced a data dashboard to help determine re-opening next steps, county executive Marc Elrich has not given an indication as to when they would move into a modified stage two under the Reopening Montgomery plan.

In the District of Columbia, which proceeded to their version of stage one on May 29, city health director LaQuandra Nesbitt told reporters late last week that, if community virus spread metrics continue going in the right direction, the city could shift into phase two on June 19. Theoretically, the city could hit the benchmarks for phase two as early as this Friday, but Nesbitt and Mayor Muriel Bowser expressed skepticism that a quick move would be the right idea.

Download Bulletin PDF