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School and Business Closures - Executive Order 53

This afternoon Governor Northam issued Executive Order 53, which outlines additional actions aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19. 

The order includes new restrictions on public gatherings, restaurant and entertainment businesses, and retail establishments. The restrictions go into effect at midnight this Tuesday. The order also extends closure of all K-12 schools through the end of the academic year.

Channeling my best Joe Friday impression, I want to provide "Just the facts, ma'am." See below for the major components of the order. In addition, the Governor has issued a frequently asked questions resource guide that goes into more detail about many of the items.

As the parent of a 6th grader, one area where I know there are questions is the impact on K-12 education. The Virginia Department of Education sent guidance to school divisions this afternoon to help them execute plans to continue instruction, while ensuring students are served equitably, regardless of income level, access to technology, English learner status, or special needs. This includes how the state will address graduation requirements, standard and verified credits, etc. Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand has sent out an email stating "Even though schools are closed, our goal is to proceed with continuity of learning for our students." Watch for additional announcements in the next few days.The GovernorVirginia Department of HealthNorthern Virginia Regional CommissionFairfax County, and the City of Fairfax all have very useful web pages devoted to COVID-19. The Virginia Department of Health site includes statistics on the spread of the virus as well as specific information designed for health professionals.

Please do not hesitate to share your questions and/or concerns. As mentioned in my last newsletter, while I may not have an immediate answer, I have been passing along messages from constituents to the Governor's team during our conference calls. You are my eyes and ears in the field and I appreciate the questions, feedback, and suggestions.

Governor's Executive Order 53

Public Gatherings

All gatherings of more than 10 people are banned statewide. This does not include gatherings that involve the provision of health care or medical services, access to essential services for low-income residents, such as food banks, operations of the media, law enforcement agencies, or operations of government.

K-12 Schools

All schools will remain closed through the end of this academic year. Expect further direction from FCPS about their plans for continuing instruction. The Virginia Department of Education will submit a waiver request to the federal government to lift end-of-year testing requirements and is exploring options to waive state mandated tests.

Recreation and Entertainment Businesses

The following recreation and entertainment businesses are considered non-essential and must close to the public:

  • Theaters, performing arts centers, concert venues, museums, and other indoor entertainment centers;
  • Fitness centers, gymnasiums, recreation centers, indoor sports facilities, indoor exercise facilities;
  • Beauty salons, barber shops, spas, massage parlors, tanning salons, tattoo shops, and any other location where personal care or personal grooming services are performed that would not allow compliance with social distancing guidelines to remain six feet apart;
  • Racetracks and historic horse racing facilities; and,
  • Bowling alleys, skating rinks, arcades, amusement parks, trampoline parks, fairs, arts and craft facilities, aquariums, zoos, escape rooms, indoor shooting ranges, public and private social clubs, and all other places of indoor public amusement.

Dining and On-Site Alcohol Establishments

All dining areas in the following establishments must close to the public. These establishments may continue to offer delivery and/or takeout services. Establishments include:

  • Restaurants;
  • Dining establishments;
  • Food courts;
  • Farmers markets;
  • Breweries;
  • Microbreweries;
  • Distilleries;
  • Wineries; and,
  • Tasting rooms.

Essential Retail Businesses

The following retail businesses are considered essential and may remain open during normal business hours:

  • Grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retailers that sell food and beverage products or pharmacy products, including dollar stores, and department stores with grocery or pharmacy operations;
  • Medical, laboratory, and vision supply retailers;
  • Electronic retailers that sell or service cell phones, computers, tablets, and other communications technology;
  • Automotive parts, accessories, and tire retailers as well as automotive repair facilities;
  • Home improvement, hardware, building material, and building supply retailers;
  • Lawn and garden equipment retailers;
  • Beer, wine, and liquor stores;
  • Retail functions of gas stations and convenience stores;
  • Retail located within healthcare facilities;
  • Banks and other financial institutions with retail functions;
  • Pet stores and feed stores;
  • Printing and office supply stores; and,
  • Laundromats and dry cleaners.

All essential retail establishments must, to the extent possible, adhere to social distancing recommendations, enhanced sanitizing practices on common surfaces, and other appropriate workplace guidance from state and federal authorities. 

Non-Essential Retail Businesses

Any brick-and-mortar retail business not listed above must limit all in-person shopping to no more than 10 patrons per establishment, adhere to social distancing recommendations, sanitize common surfaces, and apply relevant workplace guidance from state and federal authorities. If any such business cannot adhere to the 10-patron limit with proper social distancing requirements, it must close.

Additional Guidance for Businesses

Professional businesses not listed above must utilize telework as much as possible. Where telework is not feasible, such businesses must adhere to social distancing recommendations, enhanced sanitizing procedures, and apply relevant workplace guidance from state and federal authorities, including CDCOSHA, and the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry.


Businesses in violation of the executive order may be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor.  The Governor has also authorized state and local authorities to disperse crowds in public exceeding the 10 person limit.