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Closure of “Non-Essential Businesses” and “Stay at Home” Orders: What Do These Mean for the Construction Industry?
Closure of “Non-Essential Businesses” and “Stay at Home” Orders: What Do These Mean for the Construction Industry?

On March 23, 2020, Governor Ralph Northam announced that Virginia would be initiating new restrictions on Virginia businesses to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. This Executive Order most importantly, will not affect construction work, or the construction industry. Rather, the Order only closes certain recreational and entertainment establishments and places limits on customers in certain retail stores. 

When Governor Northam announced this Order at a press conference, a reporter asked specifically if construction would be impacted by this Order. The Governor confirmed that Construction is not currently impacted by this Order nor are “construction product retail” establishments.

As for businesses that remain operational in any state, those businesses, to the extent possible, must adhere to social distancing recommendations and enhanced sanitizing practices, along with encouraging telework where possible.   

A recap of other area state COVID-19 orders – and their effect on the construction industry-- is below:

  • Maryland: Maryland has closed all “non-essential” businesses starting on March 23, 2020. That order expressly defines “commercial and residential construction companies” as essential businesses that may remain open. The order also includes “companies that sell supplies and materials for maintenance of commercial and residential buildings” as essential services, but the order does not directly address construction suppliers.
  • West Virginia: West Virginia has issued a “Stay at Home Order,” requiring that residents leave their home only for essential services or to work for a company that provides essential services. West Virginia does include certain construction work in its essential services: namely, hospital construction, construction of long-term care facilities, public works construction, school construction, essential business construction, and housing construction. The term “Essential Business Construction” is not defined, but the most likely interpretation is that construction is permitted for  projects related to businesses that are listed as essential businesses themselves.
  • North Carolina: North Carolina has not issued an official “Stay at Home Order” or “Essential Business Order,” but the Governor of North Carolina did sign an Order similar to Virginia’s, requiring certain entertainment and recreational facilities to close, and requiring other retail businesses to practice social distancing. This Order does not affect the construction industry.
  • South Carolina: No “Stay at Home Order” or “Essential Business Order” has yet been entered.
  • Washington D.C.: As of March 24, 2020, the District of Columbia temporarily closed all of the on-site operations of all “non-essential businesses,” while strongly encouraging all “Essential Businesses” (including the on-site operations of all Essential Businesses) to remain open.  The D.C. order specifically defines “Essential Businesses” to include all construction and building trades, including plumbers, pipefitters, steamfitters, electricians, boilermakers, exterminators, roofers, carpenters, bricklayers, welders, elevator mechanics, businesses that sell supplies and materials for maintenance of commercial and residential buildings (including “big box” supply stores), plumbing distributors, electrical distributors, HVAC distributors, and all other businesses that provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and operation of residences and other Essential Businesses.  The D.C. order also requires all Essential Businesses (and non-Essential Businesses) to take “reasonable” steps necessary for employees to work remotely from their homes. 

As always, if you have questions about COVID-19 regulations or executive orders and how they may affect your business, contact your experienced construction attorney at Hirschler.

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