PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — As concern mounts over the health and safety of those still working in Hampton Roads, Norfolk Naval Shipyard is saying it will stay open because it is considered an essential business — but is also making some changes to combat the virus.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has canceled K-12 school through the end of the school year, closed some non-essential businesses and put restrictions on others, and issued a mandatory stay-at-home order through June 10.

Norfolk Naval Shipyard is setting up a screening process at its gates, providing cleaning kits for its projects, and changing high-risk and primary caregiver guidelines for its workers.

The guidelines now cover employees 65 and older and more closely match COVID-19 guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The high blood pressure risk criteria has been removed.

The shipyard also placed employees who couldn’t telework and are at high-risk for coronavirus on administrative weather and safety leave.

“This is consistent with current CDC guidelines. Your supervisors will be reviewing the full details of the changes with you and I encourage you to ask questions for complete understanding. Another significant measure that will be put in place is that medical documentation will be required for those self-identifying as high risk. I am asking for this documentation to ensure fairness and equity is given to all employees across the shipyard,” Capt. Kai O. Torkelson, USN Commander, Norfolk Naval Shipyard, wrote in a message Monday.

The shipyard has already worked to move some employees to teleworking, which was put in place March 18.

“I understand these changes may cause concerns for some employees during this difficult time but we are charged with the responsibility to ensure our Navy is prepared to defend our country. To quote the Acting Secretary of the Navy, ‘I know that each of you stands ready, willing, and more than capable to protect the American people. It is what we all signed up for, to serve a cause greater than ourselves, to protect our democracy and our very way of life. I could not be more proud to count myself among each of you: a Sailor, a Marine, a Department of the Navy Civilian, and an American Citizen. Together, we will get through this and emerge on the other side as a stronger and more agile Navy and Marine Corps team, and as a direct result of that, a more resilient nation,'” Torkelson wrote.

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