COVID-19 Update: Maryland and Virginia Institute Stay-at-Home Orders

4 minute read | March.31.2020

As of March 30, 2020, Maryland and Virginia became the latest states to issue stay-at-home orders to combat the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). The directive to keep people at home began just two weeks ago in California and has now been adopted by more than half the states.


On March 5, 2020, Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency after three cases were confirmed in the state. The governor also placed dining restrictions on restaurants and bars. On March 23, 2020, the governor closed all non-essential businesses until further notice. However, none of those efforts had required Marylanders to stay at home. In fact, on March 23, the governor made the following announcement: “Let me be clear, we are not issuing or ordering a ‘shelter in place’ directive or forcing people to stay home.” However, as of yesterday, March 30, Governor Hogan retracted those comments. After signing his most aggressive order to-date to tackle COVID-19, Governor Hogan declared: “We are no longer asking or suggesting Marylanders to stay home. We are directing them.”

Governor Hogan’s stay-at home order closes all non-essential businesses and restricts in-person gatherings larger than 10 persons, and requires all persons living in Maryland to stay-at-home with limited exceptions:

  • To conduct or participate in essential activities, such as obtaining food or medicine, seeking urgent medical attention, providing care to family, friends or pets in another household or location;
  • Staff or owners of businesses that are not required to close may travel between their homes and those businesses or travel to and from customers for the purpose of delivering goods or performing services; and
  • Staff and owners of non-essential businesses may travel between their homes and those businesses for the purpose of engaging in minimal operations and to and from customers for the purpose of delivering goods.

    • “Non-essential businesses” are defined as those that are not part of the critical infrastructure sectors identified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, including food, health care, and transportation.
    • “Minimal operations” is defined as facilitating remote working by other staff, maintaining essential property, preventing loss of or damage to property, performing essential administrative functions (including picking up mail and payroll), caring for live animals, and for retail establishments, continuing to sell retail products on a delivery basis.

State and local law enforcement are responsible for enforcing the order. A person who knowingly and willfully violates this order will be guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction, offenders may be subject to imprisonment not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding $5,000 or both. This Order remains effective until after termination of the state of emergency or until superseded by additional orders.


On March 23, 2020, Governor Ralph Northam issued Executive Order Fifty-Three requiring all non-essential businesses to cease operations and banned all mass gatherings of 10 or more persons, effective until April 23, 2020. Essential retail businesses may remain open during normal business hours, and include:

  • 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.

Other brick and mortar retail businesses may continue to operate but must limit all in-person shopping to no more than 10 persons per establishment.  If any such business cannot adhere to the 10-patron limit with proper social distancing requirements, it must close.

The Executive Order further states professional businesses may remain open but should utilize teleworking as much as possible.  Where telework is not possible, such businesses must adhere to social distancing recommendations, enhanced sanitizing practices on common surfaces, and “apply relevant workplace guidance from state and federal authorities.”

Executive Order Fifty-Three remains the primary guidance on what actions businesses should take. However, as discussed below, it has been amended by Executive Order Fifty-Five to remain in effect until June 10, 2020.

On March 30, 2020, Governor Northam issued Executive Order Fifty-Five, which reinforces Executive Order Fifty-Three and directs all Virginians to stay home except in extremely limited circumstances. Individuals may leave their residence for allowable travel, including to seek medical attention, care for family or household members, obtain groceries, prescriptions or outdoor activity. All public and private in-person gatherings of more than 10 individuals are prohibited.

Violation of the order is a Class 1 misdemeanor pursuant to § 44-146.17 of the Code of Virginia. The executive order will remain in place until June 10, 2020, unless amended or rescinded by a further executive order.