Maryland and Virginia Close “Non-Essential” Business 

Updated March 30, 2020

On March 23, 2020, the governors of Maryland and Virginia issued executive orders relating to business operations in response to the growing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Generally, the Maryland and Virginia executive orders require “non-essential” businesses to cease or limit operations. Businesses and individuals that do not comply with these executive orders may be subject to imprisonment up to one year and/or fines. In Maryland, these restrictions went into place beginning at 5 p.m. on March 23, 2020, and will last for an indefinite period based on Maryland’s declared state of emergency. In Virginia, the restrictions went into place beginning at 11:59 p.m. on March 24, 2020, and will last for one month until 11:59 p.m. on April 23, 2020.

UPDATE: On March 30, 2020, the governors of Maryland and Virginia followed up their prior executive orders, issuing stay-at-home orders for all Maryland and Virginia residents. The stay-at-home orders require residents to remain in their homes except for “essential” work and other essential activities like obtaining food and medical care. Violations of these stay-at-home orders can be charged as a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment up to one year and/or fines. The stay-at-home restrictions for Maryland residents go into place beginning at 8:00 p.m. on March 30, 2020, and will last for an indefinite period based on Maryland’s declared state of emergency. The stay-at-home restrictions for Virginia residents is effective March 30, 2020 and will remain in effect until June 10, 2020.

Right now, most businesses within the construction industry qualify as essential businesses under both Maryland and Virginia executive orders. In particular, Maryland’s Office of Legal Counsel specifically identified commercial and residential construction companies (and also building maintenance companies) as essential businesses not affected by the shutdowns. The same guidance applies for Maryland’s stay-at-home order. Likewise, the stay-at-home order in Virginia applies the same standards for businesses permitted to operate as in the March 23 order. Therefore, the construction industry is not directed to stop work as a result of these executive orders. However, these executive orders are less clear as to whether collateral businesses that provide materials, equipment, and other support to the construction industry may be closed as non-essential. As a result, contractors should reach out to their subcontractors and supply chain to ascertain whether they anticipate any changes in delivery times or methods for materials and equipment. To the extent any contractors or suppliers are impacted by these executive orders and related business closures, it is critical that they promptly notify both upstream and downstream contracting partners and carefully document the impacts.

On March 24, 2020, the District of Columbia closed all “non-essential” businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For details about the closures in place in the District of Columbia, please refer to our previous client alert, D.C. Closes Non-Essential Businesses, Restricts Sick Employees of Essential Businesses.

For additional strategies on responding to and documenting impacts from these government actions and COVID-19 in general, please refer to our previous client alert, COVID-19 Strategies for the Construction Industry.


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Stephen M. Seeger


(202) 747-0793

Jesse S. Keene


(202) 747-0795

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Cozen O’Connor is monitoring this situation and will continue to issue related updates. Additionally, visit Cozen O’Connor’s COVID-19 website for new updates. For advice on preparing for and responding to pandemic-related cost and schedule impacts, please contact any one of Cozen O’Connor’s Construction Group attorneys who can help guide you through the legal challenges. For information on pandemic-related real estate, development, and zoning issues, follow Cozen O’Connor’s Get the Dirt blog.