We are hearing reports from members that local health departments are not enforcing the state’s March 22, 2020 “Stay at Home Order” uniformly and that some are creating requirements for businesses above and beyond the state order. While we have been reporting these cases to the Governor’s office and the Ohio Department of Health, asking for uniformity at the local level, we know of no such directive from the Administration to the locals as of this writing. They are no doubt overwhelmed given the situation. As such, today we engaged JobsOhio in an effort to bring about a resolution to the current inconsistencies.

The best guidance we can offer to you at this time is to make sure that you are prepared for a visit from a local health department and/or law enforcement. The first thing that you should do if you have not already done so is to have a letter prepared and at the ready at each location you operate that justifies why that store or facility meets the criteria under “12. Essential Businesses and Operations” in the “Stay at Home Order”. If you are unsure about what to put in the letter, you should seek assistance from legal counsel. Second, make sure you are practicing all of the requirements outlined in, “15. Social Distancing Requirements” of the March 22 order. Those include:

  • taking steps necessary to ensure that employees and customers maintain a distance of six feet from each other, whether by using signage, tape or other means;
  • having hand sanitizer and sanitizing products readily available for employees and customers;
  • implementing separate operating hours for elderly and vulnerable customers; and
  • posting online whether a facility is open and how best to reach the facility. 

You should also ensure that you are following the actions outlined in, “18. COVID-19 Information and Checklist for Businesses/Employers” of the March 22 order, which includes important guidance such as reinforcing that employees who are sick should stay home, that employees should monitor their own temperatures daily (over 100 degrees—stay home!), practice hand hygiene, and frequently perform enhanced cleaning of commonly touched surfaces, among others. A few additional suggestions are:

  • have every employee clean and disinfect his or her workstation at the beginning and end of every shift if not more often;
  • stagger shift start times and breaks;
  • discontinue face-to-face meetings and communicate via e-mail, text or signage, and;
  • spread out tables and chairs in break rooms, even if it means removing some of them.

While this may seem like a lot to ask, these provisions are requirements, not requests. It is imperative that employers do absolutely everything they can to ensure the safety and health of their employees and customers by preventing the spread of this insidious virus. It’s truly about saving lives–a goal we all share. 

While we cannot provide legal guidance, if you have questions related to other matters, please e-mail us at info@ohioretailmerchants.com. Be safe, stay well.