Reopening Virginia: Considerations for Employers and Businesses

May 21, 2020

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With portions of the Commonwealth of Virginia starting to reopen, there are important measures employers should consider as they plan for a safe and successful reopening in a world that has changed considerably in the last two months. 

State Guidelines

Governor Northam issued Executive Order 61, outlining the guidelines for Phase I of Virginia’s reopening plan that began on May 9. As part of this phased opening, social distancing measures will continue, and the state will continue to prohibit social gatherings of more than 10 individuals. Facial coverings will be encouraged. For businesses, Executive Order 61 eases restrictions on restaurants and other food and drink establishments, retail businesses, and personal care and personal grooming services. Entertainment and fitness businesses must remain closed in Phase I. While Executive Order 61 expires on June 10, Governor Northam has clarified that the next phase of Virginia’s reopening plan will be based on data, and the date is subject to change.

It is important employers follow the industry specific guidance outlined in Executive Order 61. For example, restaurants may only use outdoor seating space at 50 percent capacity with tables positioned at least 6 feet apart, among other requirements. Brick and mortar retail establishments must limit occupancy to 50 percent capacity and employees must wear facial coverings.   

Testing/Tracing and Employee and Customer Safety

Ensuring both employee and customer safety is critical to the successful reopening of businesses and organizations in the Commonwealth. At a minimum, employers must comply with Virginia’s Phase I guidelines, although many employers may consider taking additional measures to ensure the safety of their employees and customers.

While the approach employers take will be unique to each industry, there may be commonalities for all employers, such as staggered arrival and departure times, disinfecting protocols, and personal protective equipment. Additionally, employers may need to identify infected employees via screening and/or testing and take appropriate action, such as isolation, to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus. Employers may also need to utilize different approaches for high-risk employees. Any additional steps or actions employers may take should be consistent with CDC, EEOC and OSHA recommendations or requirements. 

A New Normal

The only certainty that businesses can rely on is that we are entering a new normal. This new normal will likely be a long-term state, with social distancing, regular decontamination procedures and personal protective equipment as normal features of business operations. There may be certain circumstances where employers may adjust or modify work processes in light of existing limitations or restrictions. This new normal also means employers must be flexible and adapt as there are still so many unknowns.

For More Information

Michele Satterlund, Senior Vice President, McGuireWoods Consulting

Victoria Young, Vice President, McGuireWoods Consulting

Deborah Dean, Chief Analytics and Technology Officer, BioIQ