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So there’s been a ‘stay-at-home’ order. Here’s what that means for you.

Maryland, Virginia and the District issued “stay-at-home” orders last week to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

These directives have not significantly changed rules on who can or cannot leave the house, but have made existing rules enforceable — possibly with fines or jail time. As Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said: “We are no longer asking or suggesting Marylanders to stay home. We are directing them.”

This week, some local jurisdictions went one step further, mandating that residents wear facial coverings when shopping or riding public transport. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) also announced additions to her stay-at-home order, including the closure of farmers markets and fish markets.

Here is the latest information on what people can or cannot do:

What is allowed?

Broadly speaking, residents must stay home except to conduct “essential activities,” which includes getting food, medical help or going to the pharmacy, or interacting with “essential businesses.”

People can leave their homes as long as it is necessary to maintaining their day-to-day life, or helpful in curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

There are also various exceptions for exercising and caretaking.

When they are not outdoors, people are urged to stay at their own residences, but visiting a family member or long-term partner is allowed.

When and where do I need to wear masks?

The CDC recommends that all residents wear facial coverings when in public, and some local jurisdictions have made this mandatory.

In the District, all food retailers — including supermarkets, grocery stores and food banks — must instruct patrons to wear masks in their stores. Businesses may be fined if they fail to enforce this rule, Bowser said, and law enforcement officers will be dispatched to food retailers and markets to ensure compliance.

Montgomery County will require shoppers to wear face coverings in grocery stores, pharmacies and other retail establishments starting Monday, April 13. Shoppers who do not comply will not be fined but may risk being turned away. The order also requires businesses to provide face coverings to employees and limit the number of shoppers in the store. Non-compliance is punishable by a fine of up to $750.

In neighboring Prince George’s County, County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) has signed an order requiring residents to cover their faces when shopping at pharmacies and grocery stores, as well as when riding TheBus, Prince George’s bus transit system. The order goes into effect Wednesday, April 15.

The CDC has issued guidance on how to make cloth masks at home out of T-shirts and hair ties.

Can I walk my dog or go out for a run?


Maryland’s order states that residents are allowed to travel to take care of a family member or a pet, as well as to stroll, bike, hike and run, though state officials urge people to do so alone or with people they live with, and only for a short period.

(Various experts actually recommend that people under self-quarantine build exercise into their routines to keep physically and mentally healthy.)

Golf courses in Maryland have been closed for a while because of the pandemic; now campsites are closed too, except for people living in recreational vehicles that are parked at these sites.

In Virginia, people can leave their homes for exercise but “must at all times maintain social distancing of at least six feet from any other person.”

People can no longer be allowed reserve space at Virginia campgrounds to stay overnight. All public beaches will be closed except for exercise and fishing. Residents can still play golf, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said, but they cannot dwell at a clubhouse.

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In the District, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s (D) order states that residents may leave their residences to engage in essential activities and “allowable recreational activities,” such as running, hiking, and dog-walking. Outdoor activities, the order states, should only be done with members of your household. On April 8, Bowser removed golf and tennis from the list of allowable recreational activities under her order.

The D.C. Parks and Recreation Department has closed playgrounds, recreation centers, basketball courts, fields, and public parks. Bowser said that the city is in talks with federal officials about whether to make any changes to access to Rock Creek Park but the city’s existing order does not extend to federal property such as the park or the Mall.

In all three jurisdictions, roadways will remain open. People are still allowed to drive from one place to another, and may drive to relax.

Can I travel for work?

In all three jurisdictions, some people are still allowed to travel for work. The specific list of workers differs in each jurisdiction, but they all generally abide by what the U.S. Department of Homeland Security considers “essential critical infrastructure” to respond to the coronavirus.

This includes health-care workers and those who work for the federal, state or local government, news organizations, and nonprofits serving vulnerable populations.

In addition, those who work for businesses considered nonessential can still travel to their workplaces to maintain “minimum operations.” People can go to their offices to pick up mail and equipment, help facilitate teleworking, or arrange payroll. Owners of retail stores or food establishments can travel to coordinate or provide deliveries.

In Maryland, officials say that while churches, mosques and other places of worship are not considered “essential business,” clergy members can travel there to maintain the campus and facilitate remote worship.

D.C. and Virginia both allow individuals to travel to a place of worship, even though services in most places have been canceled and gatherings of groups of people are prohibited.

In all three jurisdictions, people can still go to the post office.

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Can I still do takeout?


Maryland’s order includes a ban on curbside pickup for nonessential businesses — a change from before — but this does not apply to restaurants. Restaurants can continue selling food “on a carryout or drive-through basis.”

Deliveries are also still allowed, so in addition to food, someone could order an item from a business deemed nonessential, they just cannot go to pick it up.

In Virginia, residents are allowed to obtain food under the rules laid out in Northam’s previous executive order, which states that food establishments can “continue to offer delivery and takeout services.”

Similarly in the District, residents are allowed to leave their homes to partake in “essential business activities,” which per a previous order, includes picking up food from restaurants and other food establishments.

In all three jurisdictions, liquor stores remain open.

What about babysitters and others who work in people's homes?

In all three jurisdictions, child care and other types of caretaking are considered essential, meaning that a nanny or babysitter is allowed to travel from one house to another and from one jurisdiction to another.

Maryland’s Office of Legal Counsel issued guidance stating that people taking care of children, seniors or those with special needs can continue their work. D.C.’s order states that travel to care for “elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons” is allowed, while Virginia’s order says people can leave their homes to “tak[e] care of other individuals.”

While the orders do not explicitly state that individuals who work in other people’s homes — such as housekeepers and gardeners — can still travel, officials in Maryland and the District confirmed to The Washington Post that such workers are permitted to do so.

It is also worth noting that all three orders allow travel that is required by law enforcement, including for example, court-ordered visitation rights.

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Can I travel between jurisdictions?

Hogan said residents should not travel out of state unless “absolutely necessary,” though this is not an explicit part of his ban. His spokesman, Michael Ricci, later clarified that residents can travel within the national capital region but should only do so under the provisions laid out in the order.

Those who regularly travel from Maryland to the District or an adjacent state for work, caretaking or other essential tasks do not need to quarantine upon returning.

But those coming home from a more extensive trip to another state — particularly a place like New York, where the outbreak is widespread — should quarantine for 14 days.

Virginia also has not banned interstate travel, but Northam, too, discouraged such trips and said those who leave the state — particularly to visit areas where there is severe community spread — should self-quarantine for 14 days.

Can I visit a loved one's grave?

The answer varies location to location, but many cemeteries are closed or restricted at this time. Cemeteries under the Archdiocese of Washington are closed to public visitations. Families who need to bury a loved one are asked to call first to make arrangements.

Arlington National Cemetery is closed to the public but will continue to hold scheduled funerals for service members.

Other private cemeteries in the area, such as the George Washington Cemetery in Adelphi, Md., remain open to the public for visits or walking the grounds.

It’s best to call a cemetery before heading there, to make sure their gates are still open.

Are there other restrictions?

Each order has its own quirks.

● In Virginia, Northam said colleges and universities are prohibited from holding in-person classes — a ruling that could be aimed at Liberty University, which welcomed students back to campus after spring break but has pledged to hold most classes online.

● In the District, Bowser initially ordered apartments to shut down common areas, including rooftops and party rooms. But on April 8, she reversed the closure of apartment rooftop and courtyard spaces, provided that people only visit these places with relatives and keep their distance from others. Ride-share drivers are not allowed to have more than two passengers at a time.

● In Maryland, the state says “recreational boating” is not an acceptable outdoor activity.

How long will it last?

Both the Maryland and Virginia orders took effect March 31. Maryland’s has no end date, Virginia’s extends until June 10. The District’s order took effect April 1 and will last until April 24.

What happens if I violate the order?

Bowser said she hopes to avoid levying criminal penalties and that people will abide by her stay-home order. But those who violate the rules could be subject to a fine of up to $5,000 and up to three months in jail.

In Maryland, state and local police have been instructed to enforce the order, Hogan said. Someone found to have violated the order would be considered guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to up to one year in prison, a fine of $5,000 or both.

Maryland State Police said Monday that they had conducted nearly 6,100 checks in the past week to ensure that residents and businesses were abiding by social distancing restrictions that were already in place. A man in Charles County was arrested after inviting 60 people over for a bonfire, and a man in Carroll County was charged for hosting a party for teenagers.

Northam said he does not intend to have authorities stop people walking down the street in Virginia to ask whether they are on authorized business.

But he noted that those who violate his previous ban on gatherings of 10 or more people, or his closure of beaches and campgrounds, could be punished by up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $2,500 or both.

Do you have other questions about the ‘stay-at-home’ orders? Tell us.

Teddy Amenebar, Fenit Nirappil, Gregory S. Schneider and Ovetta Wiggins contributed to this report.

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