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DC Mayor Muriel Bowser Issues Order Limiting Gatherings and Closing Certain Non-essential Businesses

Yesterday, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser issued an order aimed at significantly slowing the community transmission of COVID-19. The order, which went into effect immediately, bans all gatherings of more than 10 people in a single enclosed space and mandates that certain non-essential businesses close by 10:00 p.m. on March 25, 2020. The order will remain in effect until April 23, 2020, at 11:59 p.m.

Under the order, businesses deemed non-essential must cease operations, which include:

  • Tour guides and touring services;
  • Gyms, health clubs, spas, and massage establishments;
  • Theaters, auditoriums, and other places of large gatherings;
  • Nightclubs;
  • Hair, nail, and tanning salons and barbershops;
  • Tattoo parlors;
  • Sales establishments not involved in essential services, specifically including retail clothing stores; and
  • Professional services not devoted to assisting essential business operations.

All businesses may continue telework operations if employees or contractors are able to perform work in their own homes, so long as such individuals can do so without making physical contact with other persons and in accordance with the order’s social distancing requirements. Those requirements include maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet between individuals, frequent hand washing, and regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces.

Under the order, the following businesses are considered essential. Thus, they may remain open during normal business hours:

  • Healthcare and public health operations, including hospitals, clinics, dentists, pharmacies, veterinary services, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, and other health care facilities and suppliers;
  • Essential infrastructure, including utilities and solid waste collection and removal services;
  • Food and household products and services, including grocery stores, licensed farmers’ markets, food banks, convenience stores, liquor stores, laundromats, and dry cleaners;
  • Social services providing the necessities of life, including food, shelter, and social services;
  • Communications and information technology, including newspapers, television, radio, and other media services;
  • Energy and automotive services, including gas stations, auto repair/mechanic shops, and auto supply stores;
  • Financial services, including banks and credit unions;
  • Transportation and logistics, including taxis, ride-sharing companies, moving companies, businesses that ship or deliver goods directly to residences, and bicycle sales and repair businesses;
  • Construction and building trades, including plumbers, electricians, exterminators, carpenters, “big box” supply stores, HVAC distributors, and businesses that sell supplies and materials for the maintenance of commercial and residential buildings and homes;
  • Housing and living facilities, including university housing, shelters, hotels (except conference facilities), and animal shelters;
  • Professional services, including legal, insurance, notary public, tax preparation and accounting services, but only when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities or essential business and governmental functions; and
  • Childcare facilities.

Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food must close their dining and congregation areas. But, they may remain open for delivery and take-out services.

Educational institutions may stay open solely for the purposes of facilitating distance learning and operations, or modifying facilities to provide support for addressing COVID-19.

Businesses deemed essential do not need to comply with the order’s restrictions on public gathering limitations.

Any individual or entity that violates the order will be subject to civil, criminal and/or administrative penalties that include civil fines and the summary suspension or revocation of licensure. 

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