The recent Third Amendment to Governor Northam’s COVID related Executive Order has updated the limitations for private in-person gatherings.  It states as follows:

All public and private in-person gatherings of more than 10 individuals indoors and 25 individuals outdoors are prohibited. A “gathering” includes, but is not limited to, parties, celebrations, or other social events, whether they occur indoors or outdoors. The presence in person of more than 10 individuals indoors, or 25 individuals outdoors, performing functions of their employment or assembled in an educational instructional setting is not a “gathering.” The presence of more than 10 individuals indoors, or 25 individuals outdoors, in a particular location, such as a park, or retail business is not a “gathering” as long as individuals do not congregate. This restriction does not apply to the gathering of family members, as defined in section I, subsection D, paragraph 2, living in the same residence. (emphasis added in various locations)

The critical sentence in the new order, which has not appeared in previous editions, is the fourth sentence which is underlined. Of great significance in that sentence is the fact that it is addressing outdoor assembly and uses a park as an example of an acceptable “particular location.”  Take note that the term “gathering” as defined in the second sentence and in this fourth sentence, as an assembly of more than 25 persons, will not be considered a gathering so long as individuals do not “congregate.”  The word congregate is not defined in the order but we are comfortable that it means groups standing in close proximity to each other – such as at a party or social event, which are used as examples of a gathering in the order.

Consequently, we believe this new sentence opens up the opportunity for associations to plan for outdoor business meetings with an unlimited number of members present where there are chairs set up in a properly distanced manner.  The venue could be in an open-air tent or other facility that simply provides overhead protection from rain or sun. Mask mandates are still in place in Virginia so all meeting participants must continue to wear masks.  Serving food or beverages in connection with membership meetings could be considered a social gathering so we discourage that practice while the Governor’s Executive Order remains in place.

This method of meeting can also be combined with remote participation so long as an appropriate resolution recording the use of electronics for notices, proxies and ballots as well as interactive communication has been established. {See posting dated March 5, 2021 entitled General Assembly Makes Virtual Member Meetings Legal …. With Conditions regarding virtual membership meeting requirements.}