Latest Order Closes All But Essential Businesses

What we all hoped wouldn’t be necessary became necessary today, when Gov. Mike DeWine announced during his daily briefing that Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton has signed a “stay at home” order requiring all Ohioans to stay at home except under certain conditions. As part of this order, most businesses and operations, except “essential businesses or operations”, are required to cease all activities, effective at 11:59pm tomorrow, Monday, March 23, 2020.

Though this announcement will undoubtedly cause further disruption to our economy and impact many employers and their employees, it was made out of necessity and only as a last resort.

The Ohio Chamber has been working with Lt. Gov. Jon Husted in anticipation that this order might, at some point, be forthcoming and believes that it is a sensible and workable order, given the circumstances.

The core of the “stay at home” order says that “all persons stay at home unless engaged in essential work or activity”. Individuals are permitted to leave their homes only for: 1) essential activities; 2) essential governmental functions; or 3) to participate in essential businesses and operations, all of which are defined in the order.

Most importantly, the order defines “essential businesses and operations” as:

CISA List (16 critical infrastructure sectors needed to maintain the services and functions Americans depend on daily and that need to be able to operate resiliently during the COVID-19 pandemic response, released on March 19 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency)

  • Stores that sell groceries and medicine;
  • Food, beverage, and licensed marijuana production and agriculture;
  • Organizations that provide charitable and social services;
  • Religious entities;
  • Media;
  • First amendment protected speech;
  • Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation;
  • Financial and insurance institutions;
  • Hardware and supply stores;
  • Critical trades;
  • Mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery, and pick-up services;
  • Educational institutions (consistent with the March 14 Ohio Department of Health order closing all K-12 schools);
  • Laundry services;
  • Restaurants for consumption off-premises (consistent with the March 15 Ohio Department of Health order limiting the sale of food and beverages to carry-out and delivery only);
  • Supplies to work from home;
  • Supplies for Essential Businesses and Operations;
  • Transportation;
  • Home-based care and services;
  • Residential facilities and shelters;
  • Professional services;
  • Manufacture, distribution, and supply chain for critical products and industries;
  • Critical labor union functions;
  • Hotels and motels; and
  • Funeral services

The order contains more expansive explanations of each of these categories of essential businesses and operations.

In addition, items #8-10 of the order permit individuals to leave home to work in these other areas:

  • Healthcare and Public Health Operations;
  • Human Services Operations;
  • Essential Infrastructure; and
  • Essential Governmental Functions

All businesses that fall into one of these categories are specifically encouraged to remain open, while still complying with a minimum six-foot social distancing requirement for both employees and customers. All businesses deemed non-essential are required to cease operations at their physical locations but may continue to operate with employees working remotely.

For businesses whose employees are or will be working remotely, support functions, such as IT support, are or may be necessary in order to facilitate the ability to work remotely. Wisely, the order recognizes this, and permits “minimum necessary activities to facilitate employees of the business being able to continue to work remotely from their residences.”

Similarly, even businesses deemed non-essential may require on-site personnel and services to maintain and protect the businesses’ property and physical equipment, inventory or other assets and perform other tasks to ensure the businesses are able to resume normal operations as soon as possible. These types of “minimum necessary activities” are defined in item #13 of the order.

Notably, the order contemplates the entire supply chain, in recognition of the fact that essential businesses cannot operate unless their supply chains are operational, as well.

Lastly, item #18 of the order provides a checklist of precautionary and protective measures employers are expected to take.

Once it goes into effect tomorrow, the order remains in place until April 6.

We applaud Gov. DeWine and Lt. Gov. Husted for allowing businesses that perform essential operations or provide essential services, and those in their supply chains, to continue to operate in an as-close-to-normal manner as is practical during the current public health emergency.

Despite the unprecedented challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio is still open for business.