On March 30, 2020, Mayor Bowser enacted a stay-at-home order for the District of Columbia. This order will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. This order will remain in place until April 24, 2020, unless it is extended or rescinded. In order to protect the health and safety of our city, this order requires that all residents of the District stay in their place of residence with few exceptions. Obviously we do not have enough space in our homes for all that food or medicine or other essential needs. The city has made a few exceptions to the order to make sure nobody starts stockpiling enough alcohol and toilet paper to last the rest of their lives. One exception to the stay-at-home order is allowing travel to and from Essential Businesses.
A few days ago, on March 24, Mayor Bowser enacted Executive Order 2020-053 which declared what places in the District would be considered “essential.” The list of “essentials” is rather long as it turns out. If you work for an “essential” operation, you either know by now or have been missing a lot of work. Most of you are worried about what is considered “essential” in regard to food and other important household items. Under the stay-at-home order, all stores that sell food. Also included are all stores that sell household consumer products (things you’d buy in CVS like deodorant) and laundromats and dry cleaners. And don’t you worry, liquor stores and medical marijuana dispensaries have been declared essential as well, you can relax. Take a few deep breathes, you got this.
As you are also likely aware, restaurants are allowed to continue selling food, it just must be take-out or delivery. Dining in at the restaurant is not allowed. Don’t be afraid to eat take out, help keep your favorite DC local businesses afloat!
Some other essential businesses include healthcare providers and pharmacies; gas stations and auto repair shops; financial services, shipping businesses (UPS and FedEx are still running), news organizations, and ride-sharing businesses. For the more religious in our community, all houses of worship have been deemed essential, as long as the proper Social Distancing Guidelines can be observed.
Now on the flip side, there are still some establishments that have been declared “non-essential.” All schools and universities have been shut down. Sorry parents, you’re stuck with the little rugrats for the time being. To double that blow, all bars (that are not also food establishments) have also been ordered closed. Other non-essentials include museums and other large gathering places like stadiums, concert halls, art galleries, etc.
On the subject of large gatherings, Mayor Bowser has declared any activity that would likely bring together ten (10) or more people at a single time in a confined space will be considered a large gathering and is subject to being broken up by the police. Don’t be like this person in our near neighbor to the north, nobody likes that guy. Large gatherings do not apply in some places, most notably in transit areas like metro and bus stations; and the aforementioned houses of worship. SIX FEET!
Now to the question, can I get arrested for this? The answer is a hard YES. The new Order states that any person or business who violates this can be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor. How much time are we talking? 90 days in jail and/or a $5000.00 fine. So watch out.
A question on many people’s minds is whether the police will actually enforce these guidelines. The short answer is time will tell. Police in other states like New York, New Jersey, California, and Florida have been enforcing their respective states’ orders and have arrested individuals hosting gatherings. While it may not have happened in the District yet, it is certainly a possibility. So, for the next foreseeable future, go about your grocery shopping quickly and six feet away from everyone else, drink your beers at home in your sweatpants, and keep up your stellar work from home habits. Obviously we are in uncharted waters right now. The city has never had to institute draconian laws like this. Whether the police will rigorously enforce this order and whether the courts will enforce the penalties remains to be seen. However, if you find yourself obviously complying with the order and that cop does happen to give you a citation or you are arrested, do not even hesitate to call our office. Scrofano Law PC is here to fight for the people of the District!
Please remember that this order is in place to keep our city healthy and safe. If it complied with, this pandemic will be dealt with faster. Do your best to enjoy life and stay safe DC!