Dissecting the Virginia Stay at Home Order

Posted on Apr 3, 2020 by Katie Carter

Governor Northam issued a Stay at Home order for Virginia residents, effective immediately, on Monday, March 30th, 2020.

I wrote last week about what would happen if a shelter in place order was issued, ironically right before Governor Northam issued his stay at home order. I’ve been reading up on these, and it probably bears mentioning that this is not a “shelter in place” order. “Stay at Home” is different, since shelter in place was intended to be used in a case where there’s something like an active shooter – so, immediate physical danger.

“Stay at home” was used instead to prevent panic and to promote the actual objective here. We’re not “sheltering”; we’re social distancing to flatten the curve, and that just so happens to require us to stay at home where we’re safest. I’m sure at this point you’ve heard it all before, but it’s best to assume we’re infected and do what we can to prevent the spread to other people.

Basically, if others aren’t family members living in your home, you shouldn’t be spending time with them – especially if they (or you!) are at risk. Do your best to protect your grandparents, parents, and other immunocompromised friends.

Even though a lot of places are issuing Stay at Home orders, and, really, the previously issued voluntary order had some similar provisions in it, this feels…surreal. To me, at least. It’s now a crime to be found in a group of 10 or more people. They’re closing public beaches, except for fishing and exercise. Parks and trails and other outdoor spaces are closed.

I’ve been socially distancing for awhile now, so I’m not entirely sure how well other people are following the guidelines. I keep hearing that people aren’t – especially younger people – but I haven’t hardly left my house so, frankly, I wouldn’t know.

You can leave the house for a lot of reasons, as many people are pointing out. In fact, I had a Facebook friend say, “These are literally all the reasons I’d leave my house anyway.” That may be true, but that’s kind of not the point. If you’re leaving the house excessively, you’re doing it wrong, even if it’s supported by the text of the order.

There’s a lot of confusion, too, about what exactly the order says and what that means. Generally speaking, the first step is to read the order, which you can do here.

This is the first time that I’ve ever seen something like this, so I can’t say that I have a vast well of knowledge on the topic. But I can say that a first step should always be to read a document like an order before jumping to conclusions or asking questions.

When does “Stay at Home” start?


It was issued on March 30th, and it went into effect March 30th. So, immediately. With some of the other states, they’ve announced ahead of time that it would begin a few days after it was issued, but that’s not the case with ours. It went into place immediately.

When does “Stay at Home” end?

The order allows for “Stay at Home” to continue through June 10th. That’s longer than expected, probably – certainly longer than I expected – but then I read an article that suggested that because our surge is expected to peak around mid-May, that’s why that date was selected.


Does a “Stay at Home” order issued until June 10th affect the courts?

This is a question that isn’t in the order and, for some courts, it remains to be seen. But, yes, I think it’s fairly likely that any scheduled dates for the foreseeable future will be scheduled after June 10th, so this effectively extends the judicial emergency.

Emergency issues will still be heard – bond hearings, protective orders, that kind of thing – but, generally, most matters will be continued until after this date.


Does a “Stay at Home” order mean we can’t do visitation exchanges?


Nope. The order pretty specifically allows travel for the purpose of a visitation exchange.  This is pretty much what I expected to see in an order, but I’m glad that it’s included.  It gives some information to parents wondering what to do in a time where there are lots of opportunities for abuse.  Wondering if you should send your child, based on other risk factors? Check out our Facebook page for a video on that exact topic.

I read another good article about parenting and coparenting during this time as well, which you might like to check out.

Definitely a good idea to go ahead and read the order, if you haven’t already. (And, also, make sure that your taxes are filed, at least for 2018, before the stimulus checks start coming out!)

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