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Gov. Ralph Northam signed an executive order Monday that will force some Virginia businesses to shut their doors until Thursday, April 23, to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus or COVID-19. 

But a lot of businesses – even those not explicitly deemed essential – will be allowed to remain open if they follow certain rules, including keeping their patron number below 10, maintaining social distancing and stepping up efforts to keep their establishments extra clean.

Northam’s office also issued a  “frequently asked questions” document that covers even more specifics, including whether it’s ok to go to church, walk your dog, visit a state park or play a round of golf.

The short answers: Churches can stay open but must abide by the statewide ban on groups of more than 10.

Dog-walking is still allowed, but two-legged walkers should maintain social distancing.

State parks must close their visitor centers but outdoor trails can remain open. Golf courses and other outdoor recreation centers can also stay open for now. 

The order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24, and will remain in place until Thursday, April 23. Additionally, the order closes all K-12 schools for the remainder of the academic year.

Northam also urged all Virginians to avoid non-essential travel outside the home when possible.

“This is an unprecedented situation, and it requires unprecedented actions to protect public health and save lives,” Northam said during a press conference Monday.

“I know the next several weeks will be difficult. These restrictions on non-essential businesses will create hardships on the businesses and employees affected. But they are necessary, and we do not undertake them lightly. I am calling on Virginians to sacrifice now, so that we can get through this together.”

Recreation and entertainment businesses

The following recreation and entertainment businesses are considered non-essential and must close to the public beginning at midnight on Tuesday, March 24, according to guidance from the governor’s office:

  • 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 6 feet apart
  • Racetracks and historic horse racing facilities
  • 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 and congregation 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
  • Tasting rooms

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
  • 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, according to the governor’s order. 

Any brick-and-mortar retail business not listed 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, the press release said. 

Any business that cannot adhere to the 10-patron limit with proper social distancing requirements must close, the order said. 

Additionally, professional businesses not listed must utilize telework as much as possible, according to a press release from Northam’s office.

All gatherings of more than 10 people are banned statewide, beginning at midnight on Tuesday, March 24. The order 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.

All schools will remain closed through the end of this academic year. 

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