Illinois has become the latest state to enact a Shelter in Place order effective 3/21/20 at 5pm until 4/7/2020.
As we continue to grapple with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with potentially more drastic measures being imposed by health officials, the question becomes what is the impact on employers if a shelter-in-place order is issued. The answer: it depends on the order.
In response to the crisis, a number of states, counties and cities have imposed or are considering shelter-in-place orders. Generally, a shelter-in-place order means that individuals must stay in their residences and not leave “unless necessary for one of the designated exceptions.” The purpose of such orders is to contain the spread of the virus by minimizing interaction between individuals to only those activities that are absolutely necessary.
Activities are to be limited to:
- engaging in activities or perform tasks essential to your health and safety or the health and safety of your family and members of your household, including pets. This includes getting medical supplies or medication, visiting a health care professional or getting supplies to work from home.
- obtaining necessary services or supplies like food, pet supplies, household products for themselves or to deliver them to others.
- engaging in outdoor activities like walking, hiking, or running
- caring for a family member or pet in another household
- working at or obtain services at any healthcare operation including but not limited to hospitals, clinics, dentists, pharmacies, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, other healthcare facilities or suppliers, home healthcare providers, mental health providers, medical cannabis dispensaries and more. This also includes veterinary care and all healthcare services provided to animals but does not include fitness and exercise gyms or similar facilities.
- working at “Essential Businesses” (see below)
- providing any services or perform any work necessary to the operations and maintenance of “Essential Infrastructure,” including but not limited to public works construction, construction of housing (in particular affordable housing or housing for individuals experiencing homelessness), airport operations, water, sewer, gas, electrical, oil refining, roads and highways, public transportation, solid waste collection and removal, internet and telecommunications systems. Some private construction activity may be authorized as well.
- working in your role as sworn police department and fire department personnel (first responders), emergency management personnel, emergency dispatchers, court personnel, and law enforcement personnel, and others working for or to support “Essential Businesses”
- performing or accessing any “Essential Governmental Functions,” meaning all services needed to ensure the continuing operation of the government agencies and provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public and all agencies that provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public
Such orders, as adopted or under consideration by various jurisdictions, do not appear to compel full out seclusion and isolation or to prohibit the public from venturing outside their homes. While the terms of such orders will vary, they contain exceptions for “essential services” impacting a number of critical infrastructure sectors.
Orders directed to the public to stay in their homes except for the following:
- To provide or receive essential services;
- To engage in essential activities; and
- To work in essential businesses and government services.
Examples of Essential Business include:
- healthcare operations and essential infrastructure
- grocery stores, supermarkets, food banks, convenience stores and other establishments engaged in the retail sale of canned food, dry goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supply, fresh meats, fish, poultry and any other household consumer products (such as cleaning and personal care products)
- food cultivation including farming, livestock and fishing
- businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services and other necessities for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals
- newspapers, television, radio and other media services
- gas stations and auto-supply, auto-repair and related facilities
- banks and related financial institutions
- hardware stores
- plumbers, electricians, exterminators and others who provide services necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation and essential operation of residences, essential activities, and essential businesses
- businesses providing mailing and shipping services, including post office boxes
- educational institutions—including public and private k-12 schools, colleges and universities—for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing essential functions
- laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers
- restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery or carry out. Schools and other entities that typically provide free food services to students or members of the public may continue to do so on the condition that the food is provided to students or members of the public on a pick-up and takeaway basis only. Schools and other entities that provide food services under this exemption shall not permit the food to be eaten at the site where it is provided, or at any other gathering site.
- businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home
- businesses that supply other essential businesses with the support or supplies necessary to operate
- businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services directly to residences
- airlines, taxis and other private transportation providers providing transportation services necessary for essential activities and other authorized purposes
- home-based care for seniors, adults or children;
- residential facilities and shelters for seniors, adults and children
- professional services, such as legal or accounting services, when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities
- childcare facilities providing services that enable employees exempted in this order to work as permitted. To the extent possible, childcare facilities must have groups of the same 12 or fewer children ever day, without changing from one group to another. Multiple groups of children at the same facility must be in separate rooms and cannot mix. Childcare providers have to stay with their same, single group.
Certainly, protective services and first responders are also engaged in essential services so they are not going to be limited. Orders are also addressing “essential travel”.
“Essential Travel,” which is defined as:
- any travel related to the provision of or access to essential activities, essential governmental functions, essential businesses or minimum basic operations
- travel to care for elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities or other vulnerable persons
- travel to or from educational institutions for purposes of receiving materials for distance learning, for receiving meals and any other related services
- travel to return to a place of residence from outside the jurisdiction
- travel required by law enforcement or court order
- travel required for non-residents to return to their place of residence outside the village
While “shelter-in-place” orders may differ from one jurisdiction to another and may be more restrictive depending on your location, the objective is still containment of the virus. Thus, your employees should be able to come to work, go home at the end of the day and even stop at the store for groceries or other essentials. But they will not be able to go out to dinner, hang out at a bar for drinks or engage in any entertainment or social activities with lots of people around them.
As with all matters involving COVID-19, this is a fluid situation with frequent, if not daily, developments. These may involve not just “shelter-in-place” orders, but other health official directives that must be carefully reviewed to ensure compliance. MidwestHR will continue to monitor and update as needed.