On April 29, 2020, U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Albert Bryan Jr. issued an executive order lifting the territory-wide stay-at-home order effective May 4, 2020. The order—called the “Safer at Home” order—includes several provisions that impact businesses with operations in the Virgin Islands.
General Guidelines for Employers
The April 29, 2020, order includes general guidelines for employers. Specifically, employers are directed to encourage frequent breaks to allow handwashing and to require employees to remain at home “when showing any signs or symptoms of sickness.” When possible, employers should establish shifts to reduce the number of employees in contact with each other and operate with the recommended social distancing of six feet or more between individuals. Employers should allow employees who are “not critical to in-person operations” or “not essential” to continue working remotely when possible.
Permitted Resumption of Operations for Many Categories of Businesses
The April 29, 2020, order permits many businesses not classified as “core life services” pursuant to the executive orders issued on March 23, 2020, and March 30, 2020, to resume operations, subject to certain limitations. Specifically:
- Private healthcare facilities may resume all procedures provided that they observe “all safety protocols.” The order does not specify the applicable safety protocols.
- Private business offices may reopen.
- Retail stores may reopen so long as they do not permit more than 10 individuals in an establishment at a time. This occupancy ceiling is not applicable to grocery stores, big-box stores, pharmacies, and fuel service stations. However, all retail establishments must continue to maintain social distancing of six feet or more.
- Gyms, tennis courts, golf courses, and other athletic facilities may reopen, subject to the prohibition against gatherings of 10 persons or more, and provided they maintain social distancing of 6 feet or more. In addition, all equipment must be sanitized before and after each use and not shared, the establishment must be sanitized throughout the day, and all patrons entering the establishment must be provided with hand sanitizer.
- Bowling alleys and movie theaters may reopen. However, these establishments may not sell food or host parties.
- Businesses offering personal grooming services may reopen, subject to several conditions:
- No more than 10 individuals, including employees, are permitted in an establishment.
- Services must be provided pursuant to scheduled appointments.
- Social distancing of six feet or more must be maintained at all times.
- Customers awaiting service must wait outside the establishment, and no more than five customers may wait at a time.
- Hand sanitizer must be provided for all patrons entering the establishment.
- Equipment, furniture and counters should be disinfected after use with each client and the establishment must be sanitized throughout the day.
- Places of worship may conduct in-person services, subject to the following conditions:
- No more than 50 individuals are allowed in the establishment.
- Pastoral leaders, employees, and volunteers must wear face coverings. If conducting the service without a face covering, a religious leader must remain 10 feet away from all persons.
Continued Prohibitions for Certain Businesses
The April 29, 2020, order expressly prohibits certain business from resuming operations, as follows:
- Bars, casinos, gaming facilities, and nightclubs must remain closed.
- Restaurants and food trucks must continue to operate on a drive-through, takeout, or delivery basis only.
- Schools must remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
- Childcare facilities are to remain closed, subject to guidance from the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Human Services.
- Contact sports are not allowed at any athletic facilities.
- Hotels, villas, guest houses, and other similar businesses, and charter vessels and similar businesses are prohibited from accepting, receiving, or registering any new guests before June 1, 2020, absent a subsequent order lifting, amending or extending this prohibition.
Required Use of Face Coverings
Effective May 4, 2020, employees are required to wear face coverings or masks during customer interactions and “whenever possible” during other work activities. All patrons are required to wear face coverings or masks when entering a business.
Face coverings also are required to be worn in non-business settings whenever a gathering consists of individuals who are not members of the same household.
Individuals with acute respiratory issues and children under two years of age are exempted from the requirement to wear face coverings or masks.
Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and will post updates in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center as additional information becomes available. Critical information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar programs.