Stay at Home Order Frequently Asked Questions


Q: My business holds a nightclub license and has been declared non-essential, I also have kitchen facilities that could be used to prepare and serve food to customers. Can my business continue to operate on the delivery and grab-and-go basis that other restaurants employ now?

A: Yes, but only with those limited operations: preparing and serving food. You may open only for delivery, carry out, or “grab and go” services. You must not allow any food to be eaten on site, and no food shall be available in a self-serve manner, such as a buffet or hot bar. In accordance with Mayor’s Order 2020-053 and Mayor’s Order 2020-054, you may operate as essential only to serve food, while complying with social distancing requirements. Other operations of your facility, such as selling non-grocery or household items, must be suspended and available for sale online or through delivery.

Q: I work in health care or for a health care-related entity, would my business be considered essential?  

A: Yes. 

Q. Are home health care aides and direct service providers essential? 

A. Yes. 

Q: Did the Mayor close churches?   

No, but large gatherings of ten or more people are prohibited, so as a practical matter, most churches are not holding services. Weddings and funerals may only be 10 or fewer people.  Houses of worship can maintain basic business operations, and many open their doors to people who walk in who want a quiet place to pray alone. Many congregations are also maintaining their social service programs to deliver essential items like food to people who are at home or helping others get to medical appointments.   

Q: Are mortuary services closed?   

A: No, but funeral parlors cannot host viewings, wakes, repasts or other gatherings of ten or more people.   

Q. Are fire monitoring services closed? 

A. No. 

Q: Are hotels closed?   

A: Some may have decided to close due to the decline in tourism and the cancellation of conferences and events. They are allowed to continue to offer rooms, but conferences or events are prohibited as they would violate the large gathering rules.     

Q: Is new construction halted?   

A: No. Construction is allowed under Section IV.1.j. However, it should be conducted safely with social distancing prioritized. 

Q: Big box stores are allowed under the Mayor’s Order, but more than ten people are in them at once.  Is DCRA going to close them?   

A: Big box stores should make efforts to preserve a safe distance between customers.   

Q: Medical personnel refer clients to my Pilates studio. Can we continue to stay open and provide services as essential medical services?  

A: If you are not a licensed medical practitioner, then your studio is considered a gym, which is non-essential and must close. 

Q: Is my employer, a telecom company, an essential business?   

A: Yes, telecom companies are considered essential.  

Q: Are storage facilities essential businesses?   

A: Allowing a current storage unit renter access to their possessions is certainly essential to them and should be accommodated. People sometimes need storage sites during construction on their homes or when they’re moving – so the storage facility can be providing essential household services under Section IV.1.c.   

Q: Are locksmiths essential?   

A: Yes, Under Section IV.1.j, “Construction and Building Trades,” they are a business that “provides services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, …and operation of residences and Essential Businesses.” 

Q: Are parking lots essential?   

A: Yes. 

Q: Are optometrists and lens makers essential?   

A: Yes. 

Q: Can I host my boot camp fitness classes outside?   

A: No. We encourage people to do essential exercise, but it’s much safer to do so alone. If you do have an allowable number of clients and they are practicing social distancing, it is best if payment is made online, so you’re not handing items like credit cards back and forth.   

Q: Can we still deliver our newspapers?   

A: Yes, newspapers are clearly essential under Section IV.1.e, and thus the distribution system for getting them to people is essential, too.  

Q: Are real estate agents essential?   

A: Real estate offices should close to all but minimum business operations, but individual agents can work from their homes, call clients, direct people to potentially good homes on MLS, place properties for listing online and the like.  Necessary financial services are essential, and closings can occur as necessary to the operation of residences and essential businesses. Open houses are not permitted. Showing a home to one potential buyer is acceptable.

All activities should be conducted in a way to minimize risk. Offices should move to principally telework or have the minimal number of persons present to handle the closing.  

Q: I’m working at home now.  Can I have my house painted now?   

A: Yes. That’s allowed under Section IV.1.j. Painting helps maintain the house and can be done maintaining social distance.   

Q: I operate a beauty supply store.  Some of our supplies include alcohol, hand wipes, and surgical masks.  Can we stay open?  

A: No. If your principal business is serving salons, you should close too. 

Q:  My law firm has several pending court deadlines and we work much more efficiently at the office.  Can we go in?    

A: As a general matter, you should be working from home, as your business is otherwise a non-essential professional services firm.  Staying home is important to remaining healthy. You may go to the office if necessary to meet court deadlines. 

Q:  Are computer repair shops allowed to remain in operation?   

A: Yes, take additional measures to protect employees and customers. Customers should call ahead, and pick up or return items outside when possible. 

Q:  My firm attends to plants, inside and outside corporations, hotels, and government buildings.  May we stay in operation?  

A: Yes. However, installation of new plantings that are currently not in your inventory is not essential at this time.  Households are allowed to hire contractors to perform maintenance and keep up their properties.  To the extent you are staying in operation, please be sure to have your crewmembers work at least six feet apart.   

Q:  We provide office space and professional services to non-profits – which services would be considered minimum business operations for us?   

A: You should provide access to offices of your tenants so that they can carry out their own minimum business operations.   

Q:  We provide construction supply, such as hardware and glass used for installation and replacement.  May we stay in operation? 

A: Yes, an essential business under the Construction and Building Trades section of the Mayor’s Order. 

Q: We are a live stream broadcast production company. Do we need to shutter completely?   

A: No, to the extent you serve the media, which are essential, you are essential and can stay open. 

Q:  I own a catering company.  Catering is not mentioned in the Mayor’s Order.  May we stay in Operation?  

A: You are included as an essential food services company for delivery of items.  You should limit your services to delivery or grab and go. 

Q:  I own a printing company.  We do some, but not all, of our work for medical firms; providing items like intake and consent forms. May we stay in operation? 

A: You may serve clients that are essential businesses, like any health care organization, under the Mayor’s Order.   If the printing needs are to comply with legally-mandated activities, fulfilling those orders is acceptable.    

Q: Are volunteers helping to provide essential services to low-income and vulnerable persons, such as emergency food providers, essential? 

A:  Yes, providing Social Services Providing the Necessities of Life, including emergency food, is essential.  

Q: Can retail business owners go to their shop to package and send out online orders?  

A: Yes, that would be considered performing minimum basic business operations. They should have the minimum number of people in the shop to process these orders and ensure they are practicing social distancing.  

Q: Can a business still operate for curbside pickup and delivery for food, beverage, and coffee?  

A: Yes, a food business offering grab-and-go and delivery is essential.   

Q: Can I operate pet grooming facilities?  

A: To the extent that the grooming needs for pets are for preventative care, for example treating an infection, skin condition, or nail trimming, you may still operate those services.  

Q: Can my arts and crafts supply store continue to operate? 

A: Yes, you can operate delivery-based services, only if people can make purchases online or by calling the store. 

Q: We are a nonprofit organization that maintains an urban vegetable farm distributing produce to those who need food in DC, can we continue to operate?  

A: Yes. 

Q: Our organization is managing Kingman and Heritage Islands State Conservation Area, in partnership with the District Department of Energy and Environment, and the area needs continued maintenance; can we continue to operate? 

A: Yes, this is considered an essential government contractor working on essential infrastructure and waste management in the District. For continued operations, people should practice social distancing and the minimum amount of people should be on site. 

Q: My company provides real estate home inspection services and mold testing services; may we continue to operate?  

A: Yes, as you are supporting essential businesses and residences. When you operate, you should have the minimum number of people onsite and practice social distancing.  

Q: If I own an appraisal company that supports home sales, can I continue to operate?  

A: The appraisal industry for home sales may continue to operate as financial and professional services supporting the operation of residences and essential businesses. All activities should be conducted in a way to minimize risk, and offices should move to telework or have the minimal number of persons present to handle an appraisal.    

Q: I am a florist, and our company delivers fruit, vegetable plants, and flowers to residences and funeral homes, can we remain open?  

A: You may operate delivery-based services only. You must ensure you keep the minimum number of staff in the shop to operate, and practice social distancing.  

Q: Can meat producers continue operating?  

A: Yes.  

Q: Can landscapers continue to operate?

A: Yes, while they are working for businesses and residences to perform maintenance and keep up their properties. To the extent companies are staying in operation, please be sure to practice social distancing.

Q: I have a janitorial and cleaning services company, can we stay open?

A: Yes, you are supporting essential businesses and residences. As a reminder, your employees should practice social distancing and follow DC Health and CDC guidelines for cleaning and safety.

Q: I have a gym in my condominium or apartment building, can it continue to operate?

A: No, gyms are closed, regardless of ownership or structure.

Q: Can I go fishing?

A: Yes, you can go fishing as a recreational activity. However, you should only be fishing by yourself or with other individuals in your household. Remember that while engaging in recreational activity, you should be practicing social distancing.

Q: My business qualifies as a Food Retail Store, do I have to provide my employees with masks or face coverings?

A: Yes, all employees must wear mask or face coverings while on duty. If you are able to procure masks, you must provide them to your employees. If you cannot procure them due to supply problems, then you must allow employees to wear homemade or self-procured masks or face coverings, and provide masks or face coverings once they are available.

Q: My business qualifies as a Food Retail Store, do I need to make aisles one way?

A: Yes, where possible. This is going to help customers and employees avoid cross paths and minimize contact. It will also help individuals maintain six feet of distance among them.

Q: My household regularly takes walks around the neighborhood – sometimes with our nanny or caregiver. We were recently stopped and informed that we could only walk on the sidewalk right outside our home, is this true?

A: No, walking, bicycling, running, and getting fresh air (with other members of your household or alone) are considered Allowable Recreational Activities. Just make sure you are engaging in these activities responsibly and practicing social distancing. If a group forms in an area, you may need to disperse because social distancing would not be possible.

Q: Are CBD stores allowed to operate?

A: CBD stores and smoke shops are non-essential.

Q: As of April 24, can I operate a car wash in the District?

A: Yes. Car washes can now operate if they are providing disinfection services to vehicles for either the interior or exterior. We understand that some essential workers need to take their vehicles to work every day and may want to utilize these services to ensure materials on their vehicle are disinfected if they may contain COVID-19, as the longevity of the virus on materials and the possibility of any subsequent transmission is uncertain. 

Before these car washes reopen, they must submit a social distancing plan to DCRA pursuant to section III.3 of Mayor’s Order 2020-54 through Vanessa Careiro at [email protected] that includes a plan to stagger shifts or take other precautions for their employees to encourage minimum person to person contact among customers and coworkers. 

Q. The Mayor’s Order provides that “Drivers of ride-sharing vehicles may not have more than two (2) other persons in their vehicle at any time.” Can members of the same household ride together in a for-hire vehicle?

A: Yes, a family or members of the same household living together can ride together in a ride-share vehicle even if there are more than two people. Additionally, it may be possible for a couple not living together to share a ride or have those two individuals include a caregiver or a nanny.

Q. Does the Mayor’s Stay at Home Order define taxi and ridesharing drivers as “essential”?

A: Yes. Mayor’s Order 2020-053, issued on March 24, 2020, states that “Taxis, ride-sharing companies, and other private transportation providers providing transportation services necessary for Essential Businesses or Essential Governmental Functions and other purposes expressly authorized in this Order;” are essential services.

Q: Can a process server company still operate?

A: Yes, you can serve process. Please be mindful of social distancing practices when effectuating service.

Q: Do convenience stores like CVS, Walgreens, 7/11 and others have to comply with Mayor’s Order 2020-058 for Retail Food Sellers?

A: Yes, they are considered “Retail Food Sellers” under section II, given that they are engaged in the retail sale of food, even if they have aisles devoted to other products. All products with a food-related license are subject to the Order.

Q: I run a non-essential business, if I now change my business to engage in the sale of essential products like groceries and masks, can I reopen my store?

A: It depends, are you newly licensed to sell food? If you are not licensed to sell food then you cannot reopen your business to do so under your general business license. Additionally, if you are newly engaged in the sale of masks or other household items, you could process those purchases through web sales and delivery, such as other non-essential businesses have done. Unless you are revamping your store front, marketing, and layout to transform into an essential business, your store should remain closed to in-store customers.

Q: Can a car dealership stay open?

A: For some, a car may be needed to get to an essential business. While auto repair shops are open, sometimes a car could be beyond repair. Dealers may remain open because they are supporting essential travel, but locations must practice social distancing and sanitize high touch surfaces frequently. Dealers should not allow customers to test drive vehicles unless the car’s interior has been wiped down with antiseptic wipes beforehand and all customers and employees wash their hands thoroughly before and after the test drive. No more than two customers may be in the car during any test drive, and like any business, the car dealership should provide for social distancing.

Q: Can coworking spaces continue to operate as essential?

A: Yes. Coworking spaces that may host essential businesses may stay open as essential businesses that offer professional services to assist in compliance with other essential businesses or legally mandated activities. However, these spaces shall comply with Social Distancing Requirements and individuals hosted in the space must take all reasonable steps to work remotely and deliver services by telephone, video, and internet.

Q: Are stores allowed to prohibit customers from bringing their own reusable bags?

A: Stores may take additional measures than required by Mayor’s Order 2020-058 to implement social distancing, sanitization protocols, and protect their employees, including requiring customers to use store bags. Some stores may have cash registers where it is not possible for a customer to bag their own groceries and maintain social distance from the cashier. If customers do bring in reusable bags, they should bag their own groceries if they are physically able to do so. The District Department of Energy and Environment has suspended aggressive enforcement of the bag tax, but the law remains in place.

Q: Do Food Sellers include liquor stores?

A: Liquor stores would not qualify as Food Sellers if they do not also engage in the retail sale of food. They still are Essential Businesses and must comply with Social Distancing Requirements, by taking measures that may include staggering staff shifts and marking paths were customers may stay at least six (6) feet apart.

Q: Can nurseries remain open?

A: Yes, they are essential as nurseries sell products that support gardening activities and may sell plants that grow food. As essential businesses, nurseries must have their employees and customers comply with social distancing and adjust operations to minimize the number of staff needed on site, if possible.

Q: Are chiropractors essential and may their practices remain open as an essential business?

A: Yes. Mayor’s Order 2020-053 defines an essential business under healthcare and public health operations as “any related and/or ancillary health care services as defined by CISA,” the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency of the US Department of Homeland Security, which has published guidance on what may be considered an essential business. Chiropractors are explicitly listed in CISA’s list under Healthcare.

Q: Have guidelines/mandates been sent to apartment managers, landlords, owners multi-family properties regarding notification to tenants if a person is diagnosed with COVID-19?

A: No, mandates have not been issued to landlords, managers, owners etc. for notifying other tenants if another tenant is diagnosed with COVID-19, nor are people with diagnoses mandated to disclose their condition to their landlords. Everyone should assume that there is community spread of the disease and take care to follow the stay at home orders, frequently hand wash, avoid touching common surfaces, and employ social distancing to avoid contact with others.

Q: Are employees and contractors of the landlord required to wear protective gear - masks and gloves?

A: Orders relating to masks and gloves order do not apply to apartment landlords or owners and their contractors.

Q: Should sanitizer be provided outside elevators and/or lobby?

A: It is a good practice to have sanitizer in lobbies, but it is not mandatory.

Q: Are tenants required to wear a mask to go to the mail room, laundry, elevator etc. Since social distancing is not possible in the examples, it would appear this could be mandated by Mayor.

A: Tenants are not required to wear masks in the common areas of their building, but we understand that practices are developing in many buildings whereby only household members units are in the building’s elevator at the same time, or that management recommends tenants wear masks in the common areas, or wait until others have left the mailroom to retrieve their mail. The configurations of buildings are so different, we believe some of these issues are best left to management and condominium boards to work out for themselves, while protecting the privacy of persons suffering from a disease.

Q: What if my business is nonessential? Can I sell my products online and provide delivery services?

A: Yes. Nonessential businesses not otherwise enumerated as essential may continue minimum basic operations, including for the purpose of delivery of their products. They may not allow customers on premises, at their entrances, or curbside. They must also minimize the number of staff required on-site and when possible, they should stagger shifts. Businesses should also regularly disinfect high-touch surfaces.

Q: We’re a self-driving platform technology company, may we continue to operate during the public health emergency?

A: Yes, you would be considered an essential business in both the transportation and technology industries. To the extent your business requires road testing that must be conducted in person, you may conduct those activities as long as you are complying with social distancing requirements and minimizing the amount of staff needed on site. The company must also implement regular sanitization protocols and disinfect high touch surfaces. At most, nine people may be present at one time, in staggered shifts. As much of your workforce as possible should continue to work remotely.

Q: Is a business that sells specialty footwear and apparel essential?

A: No. A specialty business that sells footwear, even those customized or recommended by health care professionals, and apparel is nonessential. The business may still operate to provide delivery of its products to residents but may not operate a storefront or curbside pick-up.

Q: Are concierge and residential apartment building staff essential?

A: Housing and living facilities, including residences and residential facilities are deemed essential in Mayor’s Order 2020-053. That would include a building’s management and staff. While essential, to the greatest extent feasible, the business must continue to comply with social distancing requirements, including by separating staff by off-setting shift hours or days. Management and building owners may also encourage residents to set policies that would encourage social distancing, such as limiting households in an elevator, limiting package or mail pick up to pre-determined times, or encouraging the use of masks in common areas.

Q: Is a company that manufactures gear or equipment for essential businesses or first responders essential?

A: Yes. Those companies may operate to the extent that they are supporting essential businesses and essential government functions. The business must still comply with social distancing and implement ways to minimize the number of people present at the facility.

Q: If I organize an event to help barbers and stylists provide haircuts to individuals with measures such as the use of masks, sanitized products, and social distancing where possible, is that permitted under the Mayor’s Order?

A: No. Currently, barbershops and hair salons are non-essential. The District will consider these services when determining when and how to reopen.


DC Homeland Security Emergency Management Agency Waiver Process for Exemption to Business Closure