How Small Businesses Can Reopen Safely During COVID-19

As we approach a return to “normal,” businesses and employers will continue to play a key role in containing the spread of COVID-19, preventing future outbreaks and maintaining a safe environment for employees and patrons. Every business and employer should consider what practices they will put in place to ensure a safe environment before resuming regular operations.  

This resource guide provides tips and general guidance for maintaining a safe business environment and workplace in the DC metro area with the current COVID-19 mandates and restrictions.  

COVID-19 General Safety Guidelines

Make a plan 

Gather reliable information on the best practices in your business’s industry. Develop a plan that takes into account your customer’s needs and employees’ concerns. CDC’s guidance encourages employers to create a new plan or update their current COVID-19 preparedness and response methods specific to their workplace. A COVID-19 preparedness plan should include the activities needed to reduce transmission among employees and maintain a healthy business and work environment. A plan should also include information about the community and employee risk, sick leave policies, and feasibility of social distancing and telework accommodations. To read CDC’’s full recommendations and guidance on how businesses and employers can plan, prevent and reduce transmission among employees, visit cdc.gov/coronavirus  

Minimize risk 

  • Assess the feasibility for your business to operate remotely to decrease person to person contact. 
  • Determine how you will monitor you and your employees health risk. Businesses can encourage employees to get vaccinated and report a diagnosis of COVID-19 as soon as possible. If you or your employees are sick, it is recommended to stay home.  
  • Consider appointment only policies, eliminating communal spaces and sanitizing your workplace between interactions.  
  • Encourage social distancing among work spaces with floor decals or physical barriers (free floor decals), provide COVID-19 education, information resources or signage.  
  • Consult CDC guidelines on handwashing and best practices to ventilate, clean, disinfect and reopen buildings after long periods of use.  
  • If handwashing stations are not readily available, consider installing hand sanitizer stations with solutions that contain at least 60% alcohol to help reduce the spread of germs.  
  • Face masks are no longer required for fully vaccinated individuals, unless where established by policy. However, businesses can establish their own mask rules. Providing PPE for your workers and customers can prevent individuals or employees from spreading the virus.

Prioritize safety 

  • Using digital payment tools is the best way to take payments from your customers without putting them or yourself at risk. Contactless payments such as Google or Apple pay are also much safer, secure and easier to record than handling cash transactions. Your payment terminal provider (i.e, Clover, Paypal or Square) can provide you with a device to accept contactless payments.  
  • Understand your businesses cybersecurity risks and technical infrastructure needed to secure sensitive data. Consider a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN can be accessed on your mobile device or via a desktop computer. Contact your technical service provider or a cybersecurity professional about setting a VPN on your device.  


  • Communicate new changes and prepare to adapt accordingly based on feedback from your employees or customers.  
  • Stay in touch with your customers and let them know what safety measures or modifications your business is implementing and communicate that on your social media accounts and in your facility.  
  • Use signage like this COVID-19 Customizable Flyer to inform customers and employees about the health precautions you are taking in your workplace.   


  • Consider federal and state financial resources such as the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), state funding programs, and grant programs that support women- and minority-owned businesses. 
  • The DC Women’s Business Center frequently updates the COVID-19 Resources, Microloan and Grant Opportunities for Women-Owned Businesses section on the web page with the most up to date opportunities.  

COVID-19 Business Restrictions in the DC Metro Region by State  

Washington, DC  

As of June 11, 2021, DC is considered a “fully opened” state, the final COVID-19 activity restrictions were lifted when all retail and non-retail businesses including nightclubs, bars and restaurants could resume at full operation with no COVID-19-related restrictions. Businesses and organizations are encouraged to recommend employees and patrons get vaccinated and comply with mask guidance. Fully vaccinated individuals must still wear a mask in healthcare settings, public transportation, correctional facilities, childcare settings and places where required by established policies.  

DC Now in Phase 3 of Reopening  

DC Health – Mask and Cloth face covering guidance  


Maryland is also considered a “fully opened” state, as of May 15. Indoor and outdoor businesses can resume normal business operations with no capacity restrictions. Face coverings are required in or on any public transportation and shared uses of commercial spaces including classrooms and where required by established policies.  

Maryland lifts capacity limits on indoor and outdoor venues  


Virginia recommends that businesses and workplaces limit the occupancy of indoor gatherings and in-person meetings to insure adequate physical distancing between members of different households. Face coverings are still required in public gatherings. Read the full guidelines for the state of Virginia here: 

Guidelines for all business sectors in the state of Virginia 

Additional Resources for Reopening  

The DC Women’s Business Center is a small business development organization focused on empowering women entrepreneurs in the DMV region to build and grow successful businesses. It is a program of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition and funded in part by the Small Business Administration.  

To find your local Women’s Business Center or a resource partner near you, visit: www.sba.gov/local-assistance

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