On March 21, 2020, the St. Louis County Department of Public Health issued the “2019 Novel Coronavirus (“COVID-19″) Stay at Home Order,” with the City of St. Louis following suit shortly thereafter. The County order prohibits residents from leaving their homes other than to engage in “Essential Activities.” Essential Activities include many of those included in similar orders coming out of other jurisdictions, such as shopping for food, medicine, and other essentials, and seeking medical care. The order restricts individuals, for the most part, from reporting to work unless the business they work for is deemed an “Essential Business.”
The order identifies 40 types of businesses in its definition of “Essential Businesses,” including:
- Healthcare operations
- Essential infrastructure, to include the operation of utilities, power generation, gas and electric transmission and distribution facilities, water, wastewater, certain construction projects, airports, solid waste removal, telecommunications, sewer, internet, and similar areas.
- Essential government functions
- Businesses that sell grocery and sanitation items, including those that deliver said items to Essential Businesses or residences
- Food cultivation, manufacturing, and distributing services
- Social service providers including shelters
- The media
- Gas stations and auto repair and supply facilities
- Financial institutions
- Hardware stores
- Businesses providing plumbing, electrical, or similar services necessary for safety, sanitation, or communication
- Mail, shipping, and delivery services
- Educational institutions in order to facilitate distance learning
- Private security services
- Laundry service providers, including laundromats and dry cleaners
- Funeral homes and related entities
- Churches, but only to the extent compliance with social distancing guidelines is maintained
- Storage facilities for Essential Businesses
- Restaurants, subject to the Department of Public Health’s Orders
- Businesses that provide emergency repair and safety services for Essential Infrastructure
- Suppliers of products needed for people to work from home
- Maintenance, janitorial and security services for Essential Businesses
- Non-profit entities that offer support for individuals affected by COVID-19
- Personal transportation services and public transportation, including paratransit services and ride share providers
- Businesses involved in the manufacture, distribution, and sale of hand sanitizers and other products related to hygiene, health, and safety
- In-home care providers as well as residential care facilities
- National defense and national security-related organizations
- Professional services including legal and accounting services, when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities or when related to the necessary activities of Essential Businesses
- Childcare providers for employees of Essential Businesses within certain proscribed guidelines.
Keep in mind, however, that falling into one of the above categories does not mean all employees are permitted to report to work. Employees will be able to report to Essential Businesses only if they are required to engage in activities necessary to provide for the safety, health and welfare of the public or infrastructure on behalf of the business. Additionally, employees are required to practice social distancing at work, taking into consideration individuals visiting the facility, including customers waiting in line for services.
For all other than Essential Businesses, operations must cease except for the minimum basic operations (activities necessary to maintain the value of a business’s inventory, provide security, process payroll or employee benefits, or to facilitate employees being able to work from home) and those functions performed by employees who can work from home.
Accordingly, employers should review their operations to determine if they are necessary for the safety, health and welfare of the public or infrastructure. If they are not, as many functions as possible should be performed by employees from their homes. If they are, employers should still determine the minimum number of employees necessary to report to the facility to allow those essential functions to be adequately performed while still enabling the use of social distancing.
The St. Louis County order is in effect from Monday, March 23, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. until April 22, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. The order will not be enforced on March 23, but only to the extent workers are traveling to or from their work or place of business and they are complying with applicable social distancing guidelines. Otherwise, failure to comply with the order will result in criminal prosecution and the possibility, after receiving notice, of being reclassified as a “Disqualified Business,” meaning the business no longer will be deemed an Essential Business. To view the order in its entirety, please click here: https://www.stlouisco.com/portals/8/docs/document%20library/CountyExecutive/Executive%20Orders/Stay%20at%20Home%20Order.pdf.
Per a joint press release by St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and St. Louis City Mayor Lyda Krewson, the City of St. Louis has adopted similar restrictions, although the City’s order does not become effective until 6:00 p.m. on March 23. To view the City of St. Louis order, click here: https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/government/departments/health/communicable-disease/covid-19/documents/health-commissioners-order-5.cfm. Leadership in St. Charles, Jefferson, and Franklin Counties also are believed to be considering similar restrictions.
Employers are encouraged to prepare documentation for their St. Louis area workers to carry with them to establish they meet the above criteria. The attorneys at McMahon Berger can assist with creating the proper format for such communications.
The St. Louis employment attorneys at McMahon Berger have been representing employers across the country in labor and employment matters for over sixty years. As always, the foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice regarding any particular situation as every situation must be evaluated on its own facts. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.