Business and Workplaces

Business and Workplaces: General

During Phase 3 of Virginia’s Plan for Reopening (Safer at Home), many businesses may operate with extra precautions in place to protect people from COVID-19 transmission. Please review Phase 3 Guidelines for All Business Sectors to review requirements and recommendations for businesses. Additional information about business operations during Phase 3 can be found here.

Essential retail businesses may remain open during their normal business hours. Such businesses are here:

  • 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 and feed stores;
  • Printing and office supply stores; and
  • Laundromats and dry cleaners.

Questions about essential services can be directed to commerce.trade@governor.virginia.gov

On December 10, 2020, Governor Northam signed Executive Order 72. This order states, “All employees of all businesses listed in section II, subsections A and C shall wear a face covering while working at their place of employment.” This order also states, “all individuals in the Commonwealth aged five and older must cover their mouth and nose with a face covering, as described and recommended by the CDC, if they are in an indoor setting shared by others.” This order provides exceptions for persons eating or drinking, persons exercising or using exercise equipment, any person who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance, any person seeking to communicate with the hearing impaired and for which the mouth needs to be visible, when temporary removal of the mask is necessary to secure government or medical services, and persons with health conditions or disabilities that prohibit wearing a mask. Adaptations and alternatives for individuals with health conditions or disabilities should be considered whenever possible to increase the feasibility of wearing a mask or to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading if it is not possible to wear one. An exception also exists for any person who is playing a musical instrument, when wearing a mask would inhibit the playing of the instrument (e.g. wind instrument), if at least 10 feet of physical distancing can be maintained from other persons, whether the rehearsal or performance is indoors or outdoors. The restrictions in Executive Order 72 began at 12:01 AM, Monday, December 14, 2020 and shall remain in force until 11:59 PM, Sunday, January 31, 2021.

On November 13, 2020, Governor Northam signed Sixth Amended Executive Order 67, which outlines business restrictions during Phase 3. The amended order is effective immediately and shall remain in force until amended or rescinded.

Furthermore, on July 15th, 2020, Governor Ralph Northam announced the adoption of an emergency temporary standard for workplaces across the Commonwealth to prevent workplace exposure to COVID-19, including standards related to personal protective equipment, sanitation, physical distancing, infectious disease preparedness and response plans, record keeping, training, and hazard communications. A webpage devoted to the emergency temporary standard containing Outreach, Education and Training materials has been set up and is being populated with documents. FAQs for the standard can be found here.

 

On July 20, 2020, CDC updated guidance for ending isolation for persons with COVID-19 not in healthcare settings. The updated guidance is available here. Information on COVID-19 testing strategies in high-density critical infrastructure workplaces after a COVID-19 case is identified can be found here. Further information can be found on the VDH Businesses website and in CDC guidance to prevent COVID-19 in the workplace.

A guide evaluating non-critical infrastructure workers with COVID-19 symptoms or exposures can be found here.

When employees socialize they tend to stand closer together than is recommended to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  This is higher risk when employees are eating because masks are not worn.  Consider closing break rooms or placing chairs and tables at least 6 feet apart to reinforce appropriate physical distancing and prevent outbreaks.

Per Sixth Amended Executive Order 67, restaurants and beverage services may operate with extra precautions in place to protect people from COVID-19 transmission. A full list of requirements and recommendations for restaurant and beverage services can be found in the Phase 3 Guidelines for All Business Sectors (p. 8-11). FAQs for restaurants and beverage services can be found here. Further information can be found in the VDH Guidance for Food Establishments Regarding COVID-19.

A guide for evaluating non-critical infrastructure workers with COVID-19 symptoms or exposures can be found here.

Of note, there is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread through food or food shipped from affected regions.

Forward Virginia Phase Three Guidelines state that karaoke must remain closed. If live musicians are performing at an establishment, they must remain at least ten feet from patrons and staff.

Modified dining areas using a tent or other artificial enclosure where the tent flaps are down or where air is recirculated through an HVAC system are considered indoor spaces. In these areas, EO 63 applies and patrons must wear a mask while not eating or drinking.

Executive Order 72 states “All individuals in the Commonwealth aged five and older must cover their mouth and nose with a face covering, as described and recommended by the CDC, when outdoors and unable to maintain at least six feet of physical distance from other individuals who are not Family members.” This order shall be effective 12:01 a.m., Monday, December 14, 2020, and shall remain in full force and effect until 11:59 p.m., January 31, 2021

Not at this time.  Feel free to check the VDH website, which is updated daily, or call 877-ASK-VDH3 if you have additional questions.

We have posted available print resources and highlights on the VDH website.

The Virginia Department of Health offers a playlist of 22 short videos on a number of topics on its homepage.

Our resources page includes information on additional topics of interest to individuals. I would direct you to encourage employees to familiarize themselves with our symptom checker called CovidCheck.

Finally, there is a section dedicated to Schools, Workplaces and Community Locations with specific resources and information depending on the type of situation. Under the Businesses section, the resources available include information on relative risk levels in business settings, setting specific resources and signage toolkits.

The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry also provides information and training for businesses. Information may be found here.

A guide for evaluating non-critical infrastructure workers with COVID-19 symptoms or exposures can be found here.

Business and Workplaces: Emergency Temporary Standard

On July 15, 2020, the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board adopted an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) addressing occupational exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 Virus That Causes COVID-19. The ETS took effect on July 27th, 2020 and was published in the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Emergency Temporary Standards for controlling COVID-19 can be found here.

FAQs regarding the ETS can be found here.

Training material for the ETS can be found here.

Workers who feel unsafe in their workplace can file a formal complaint with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration here.

Information on how to file complaints about violations of the ETS can be found here.

The new COVID-19 standard (ETS) adopted by the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry requires all employers to establish a system for collecting information about employees (including contract and temporary employees as well as full-time) who have symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Employees need to follow the procedures established by the employer. Illness information is needed during the pandemic so measures can be put in place to prevent the spread of the disease. Employers must keep employee illness information confidential.

The Occupational Safety and Health Laws of Virginia give employees the right to file complaints about workplace safety and health hazards. Further, the Occupational Safety and Health Laws give complainants the right to request that their names not be revealed to their employers. Complaints from employees and their representatives are taken very seriously by VOSH. Information on how to file complaints about violations of the ETS can be found here.

Effective December 8, 2020, the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI), in consultation with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), has determined that employers no longer need to report single COVID-19 positive cases to VDH, in order to comply with the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH) program’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for Infectious Disease Prevention of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus that Causes COVID-19.

However, after the initial report of outbreak (two or more cases), employers shall continue to report all cases to VDH until the local health department notifies the business that the outbreak has been closed.

After the outbreak is closed, subsequent identification of two or more cases of COVID-19 during a declared emergency shall be reported, as above.

The Emergency Temporary Standard provides that “The employer shall notify the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry within 24 hours of the discovery of three (3) or more employees present at the place of employment within a 14-day period testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 virus during that 14-day time period.”

COVID-19 case reports must be filed through the Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) online reporting portal. By using this portal, these case reports will ensure VDH and DOLI reporting compliance. The new online reporting portal allows employers to submit up to 10 Covid-19 positive cases.

Business and Workplaces: Return to Work

No. CDC and VDH do not recommend using COVID-19 testing to make this decision. Instead, we recommend a symptom-based strategy for those with symptomatic infections and a time-based strategy for those with asymptomatic infections. These two strategies are summarized in the infographic entitled "VDH When to End Isolation or Quarantine" that is available here.

The symptom-based strategy means waiting until 10 days after symptom onset, having resolution of fever for at least 24 hours without fever-reducing medications, and having other symptoms improve. Of note, loss of taste or smell can persist for weeks and should not delay ending isolation.

The time-based strategy means waiting until 10 days after specimen collection and not having any other symptoms develop.

People who have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 should monitor for symptoms and follow all recommended non-pharmaceutical interventions (e.g., wear a mask, avoid crowds, follow social distancing, and wash hands frequently) for 14 days after the last exposure. VDH and CDC still recommend that close contacts quarantine (stay home) for 14 days after their last exposure. This is the safest option. If people choose to end quarantine early, there are 2 options:

  • Quarantine can end after Day 10 without testing and if no symptoms have developed; OR
  • Quarantine can end after Day 7 if a viral test (e.g., PCR or antigen test) performed on or after Day 5 is negative and if no symptoms have developed.

Persons with COVID-19 symptoms may discontinue isolation under the following conditions:

  • At least 10 days have passed since symptom onset and
  • At least 24 hours have passed since resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and
  • Other symptoms are improving (loss of taste or smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation).

For more information, see Virginia Department of Health Interim Guidance on Screening, Monitoring and Testing Employees Returning to Work: Critical Infrastructure Employees (Non-Healthcare)

 

CDC recommends in their Guidance for Business Response that employers should not require either a COVID-19 test result or a healthcare provider’s note for employees to return to work. Healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely manner.

CDC recommends in their Guidance for Business Response that employers should not require a positive COVID-19 test result or a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick to validate their illness, qualify for sick leave, or to return to work. Healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely manner.

You can speak with your supervisor or human resources department about your concerns and related workplace policies. You can also read more about VDH’s recommendations for travelers and information available for International Travelers or U.S. Travelers.

Page last updated: January 12, 2021