Metro Weekly

D.C., Maryland, Virginia all issue stay-at-home orders in response to COVID-19 pandemic

Residents are asked to stay home unless performing "essential" services, seeking health care, or picking up groceries

Muriel Bowser, Larry Hogan, and Ralph Northam – Photos: Facebook.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has issued a stay-at-home order for all District residents, following the lead of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) in issuing stricter orders that will discourage people from venturing out from their homes.

Under D.C.’s order, which takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on April 1, District residents will be required to stay at home, except when engaging in “essential activities,” including obtaining medical care, filling prescriptions, or obtaining food and essential household goods. Those who work for “essential” businesses or perform “essential” government functions, will also be allowed to venture out, as will those engaged in “essential” travel and certain “allowable recreational activities,” as defined by the mayor.

Any District resident who violates the stay-at-home order may be found guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, subject to a $5,000 fine, 90 days in prison, or both

All three orders come as D.C. area officials become increasingly concerned about the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the region. Health experts and politicians alike have been urging residents to socially distance themselves, and, in doing so, “flatten the curve,” or reduce the rate at which the virus spreads by limiting human contact. 

“Our message remains the same: stay home,” Bowser said in a statement. “Staying home is the best way to flatten the curve and protect yourself, your family, and our entire community from COVID-19. Many people want to know how they can help right now, and for most people this is how — by staying home.”

Earlier on Monday, Hogan issued a stay-at home order set to take effect at 8 p.m. ordering all state residents to stay home unless obtaining food or medicine, seeking urgent medical attention, or for other necessary purposes.

“This is a deadly public health crisis — we are no longer asking or suggesting that Marylanders stay home, we are directing them to do so,” Hogan said in a statement. “No Maryland resident should be leaving their home unless it is for an essential job or for an essential reason such as obtaining food or medicine, seeking urgent medical attention, or for other necessary purposes.”

Restaurants in Maryland may continue selling food and drink on a carry-out or drive-through basis, but curbside pickup at non-essential businesses will no longer be permitted. 

Those who have traveled outside of Maryland are asked to quarantine themselves for 14 days upon returning to the state. Those found guilty of flouting the stay-at-home order can be subjected to a prison term of up to one year, a fine of $5,000, or both.

Northam issued his own stay-at-home directive on Monday afternoon, which took effect immediately. However, unlike Bowser or Hogan’s orders, Northam’s has an expiration date of June 10, unless amended or rescinded by a future executive order.

Virginians will be required to stay home, except for “allowable travel, including to seek medical attention, work, care for family or household members, obtain goods and services like groceries, prescriptions, and others” and may only engage in outdoors activities with strict social distancing requirements.

All Virginia institutions of higher education are required to stop in-person classes and instruction. Private campgrounds must close for short-term stays, and beaches will be closed except for fishing or exercise.

“We are in a public health crisis, and we need everyone to take this seriously and act responsibly,” Northam said in a statement. “Our message to Virginians is clear: stay home. We know this virus spreads primarily through human-to-human contact, and that’s why it’s so important that people follow this order and practice social distancing. I’m deeply grateful to everyone for their cooperation during this unprecedented and difficult time.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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