As businesses begin to re-open, the federal, state, and local government units in the St. Louis metro area continue to issue guidance so that businesses can re-open safely.
Below we have summarized Federal, Illinois, Missouri, St. Charles County, St. Louis County and St. Louis City guidance for employers to re-open businesses. We will continue to update this alert when information becomes available. We have concluded this summary with some additional items to consider while re-opening.
Federal Guidance on Re-Opening
The Federal Guidance from the CDC/White House provides benchmarks before there is a phased reopening (known as “gating criteria”):
- Downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses reported within a 14-day period;
- Downward trajectory of COVID-like cases reported within a 14-day period;
- Downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period;
- Downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period;
- Hospitals can treat all patients without crisis care; and
- Robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing.
The Federal Guidance recommends the following for individuals during all phases (and we recommend employers encourage, facilitate, and publicize these practices):
- Washing hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer, especially after touching frequently used items or surfaces;
- Avoiding touching your face;
- Sneezing or coughing into a tissue, or the inside of elbow;
- Disinfecting frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible;
- Strongly consider using face coverings while in public, and particularly when using mass transit; and
- People who feel sick should stay home.
For all phases of the re-opening, the Federal Guidance encourages employers to develop and implement appropriate policies, in accordance with Federal, State, and local regulations and guidance, and informed by industry best practices, regarding:
- Social distancing and protective equipment;
- Temperature checks;
- Testing, isolating, and contact tracing;
- Use and disinfection of common and high-traffic areas;
- Business travel;
- Monitoring workforce for indicative symptoms;
- Not allowing symptomatic people to physically return to work until cleared by a medical provider; and
- Developing and implementing policies and procedures for workforce contact tracing following employee COVID+ test.
Phase One of the Federal Guidance for employers includes the following:
- Continue to encourage telework, whenever possible and feasible with business operations;
- If possible, return to work in phases;
- Close common areas where personnel are likely to congregate and interact, or enforce strict social distancing protocols;
- Minimize non-essential travel and adhere to CDC guidelines regarding isolation following travel; and
- Strongly consider special accommodations for employees who are members of vulnerable populations.
Phase One of the Federal Guidance includes additional guidance for specific employers:
- Schools and organized youth activities (e.g., daycare, camp) that are currently closed should remain closed.
- Visits to senior living facilities and hospitals should be prohibited. Those who do interact with residents and patients must adhere to strict protocols regarding hygiene.
- Large venues (e.g., sit-down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues, places of worship) can operate under strict physical distancing protocols.
- Elective surgeries can resume, as clinically appropriate, on an outpatient basis at facilities that adhere to CMS guidelines.
- Gyms can open if they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols.
- Bars should remain closed.
Phase Two of the Federal Guidance is appropriate when States and Regions have no evidence of a rebound and that satisfy the gating criteria (listed above) a second time. Phase Two of the Federal Guidance for employers includes the following:
- Continue to encourage telework, whenever possible and feasible with business operations;
- Close common areas where personnel are likely to congregate and interact, or enforce moderate social distancing protocols;
- Non-essential travel can resume; and
- Strongly consider special accommodations for personnel who are members of a vulnerable population.
Phase Two of the Federal Guidance also provide additional guidance for specific employers:
- Schools and organized youth activities (e.g., daycare, camp) can reopen.
- Visits to senior care facilities and hospitals should be prohibited. Those who do interact with residents and patients must adhere to strict protocols regarding hygiene.
- Large venues (e.g., sit-down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues, places of worship) can operate under moderate physical distancing protocols.
- Elective surgeries can resume, as clinically appropriate, on an outpatient and in-patient basis at facilities that adhere to CMS guidelines.
- Gyms can remain open if they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols.
- Bars may operate with diminished standing-room occupancy, where applicable and appropriate.
Phase Three of the Federal Guidance is appropriate when States and Regions have no evidence of a rebound and that satisfy the gating criteria (listed above) a third time. Once state and regions have met this benchmark, employers may have “unrestricted staffing.”
Phase Three of the Federal Guidance for specific employers provides the following:
- Visits to senior care facilities and hospitals can resume. Those who interact with residents and patients must be diligent regarding hygiene.
- Large venues (e.g., sit-down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues, places of worship) can operate under limited physical distancing protocols.
- Gyms can remain open if they adhere to standard sanitation protocols.
- Bars may operate with increased standing room occupancy, where applicable.
Missouri’s Show Me Strong Recovery Plan
On June 16, 2020, Missouri transitioned into Phase 2 of the “Show Me Strong Recovery” Plan fully opening Missouri for business. Governor Mike Parson lifted all statewide restrictions that were established under Phase 1 of the Plan; however, local officials have the authority to put into place more stringent rules, regulations, or ordinances.
Businesses, residents, and visitors are still encouraged to follow the health and safety guidelines from the White House and CDC. Citizens should stay home when feeling sick and avoid socializing in in areas that do not allow for appropriate physical distancing. Businesses are encouraged to implement basic infection prevention measures and monitor workforce for indicative symptoms.
As we come upon the one-year anniversary of the start of the pandemic, Missouri has begun to focus its efforts on recovery. Missouri is dedicated to helping businesses recover by implementing new programs focused on broadband expansion, small businesses, PPE production, nonprofit relief and recovery, and tourism.
St. Louis County Re-Opening Guidance
On November 12, 2020, the St. Louis County Department of Public Health issued its third amended quarantine and isolation order effective November 15, 2020. The order incorporated isolation and quarantine protocols for those exposed and infected with COVID-19. The order is effective until rescinded or modified by the Director of the St. Louis County Department of Public Health.
On February 1, 2021, the St. Louis County Department of Public Health also issued the Second Amended Safer at Home Order. The order encouraged individuals to stay at home and avoid unnecessary interactions to limit the transmission of COVID-19.
The Safer at Home Order limits when an individual can leave their residence. The Order allows individuals to interact with members of their home, and those within their Support Bubble. The Support Bubble cannot consist of more than 10 individuals. Acceptable purposes to leave include: work, provide voluntary or charitable services, shop or collect food, visit people in their Support Bubble, access financial services, any medical reason, education, training, attended places of worship, and going to exercise.
The Orders limit gatherings to no more than 10 people, and all Businesses providing goods or services are limited to 25% or less of the entity’s authorized capacity. All restaurants and Drinking Establishments are limited to 25% or less of the entity’s authorized capacity and must be closed for indoor and outdoor service by 11:00 p.m. Banquet facilities, hotel conference rooms and facilities are subject to the 25% capacity limit. All Businesses shall deny entry to members of the public who refuse to wear Face Coverings.
On November 18, 2020, St. Louis County issued its Third Amended Order. Except when wearing a face covering would compromise the health of an individual, face coverings are recommended to be worn by all persons over the age of five in the following areas:
- Any Business or Public Accommodation, indoor or outdoor;
- Outside when six feet of distance cannot be maintained from other non-household members; and
- Any K-12 educational institution, whether private or public.
Students attending grades K-12 may remove their Face Covering, while maintaining six feet social distancing guidelines, in the following situations:
- At recess, or physical education class;
- At band, choir, or music class;
- While consuming food or drink; and
- While participating in a school sponsored sport.
All Businesses and other venues providing Public Accommodation must post the requirement that Face Coverings are required for entry and must continuously be worn while present in the business or venue. Businesses must deny entry to members of the public who refuse to wear Face Coverings.
All Businesses must comply with Social Distancing Requirements and disinfection processes, and must take the following additional precautions:
- Require frequent disinfection processes of all high touch surfaces and any other areas that may be frequently touched by customers, employees, volunteers or any other individuals;
- Provide reasonable breaks for employees and volunteers to wash hands;
- Train employees about procedures related to disinfection processes and Social Distancing Requirements;
- Provide employees and volunteers working in the businesses’ facility with face coverings or supplies to make face coverings;
- Require employees or volunteers to wear face coverings while at work, unless such employee or volunteer is working alone in an enclosed area or has a medical reason not to wear a face covering;
- Conduct daily screening of employees and volunteers who work in their facilities for symptoms of COVID-19; and
- Encourage employees or volunteers to quarantine or isolate if they have or are believed to have COVID-19 or if they have come into contact with individual(s) with COVID-19.
St. Charles County Re-Opening Guidance
On June 15, 2020, St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann announced that the county would follow Phase 2 of the state’s “Show Me Strong Recovery” Plan. Even though state-wide restrictions are lifted, the St. Charles County Department of Public Health has offered additional recommendations for residents to increase health and safety measures.
St. Charles County residents are encouraged to continue:
- Practicing social distancing in public settings;
- Wearing a mask in public;
- Washing hands and commonly touched surfaces often throughout the day; and
- Stay at home and avoid others when sick.
St. Charles County Public Health recommends all businesses implement workplace health screenings for employees; regularly clean and disinfect; post reminders regarding face coverings, hygiene and social distancing; make hand sanitizer available at the entrance; increase ventilation and encourage employees and guests who are sick to stay home.
City of St. Louis Re-Opening Guidelines
On November 12, 2020, the City of St. Louis issued the Health Commissioner’s Order No. 15, which amended, supplemented and rescinded previous orders. The Health Commissioner’s Orders Nos. 8, 9. 11. 13 and 14 still remain in effect in the City of St. Louis.
In addition to previous orders, Order No. 15 prohibits:
- Private gatherings with more than 10 attendees.
The City of St. Louis offers outlined specific guidance for certain industries, available at:
Illinois Re-Opening Plan
On March 18, 2021, Governor Pritzker announced an additional phase to the “Restore Illinois” re-opening plan. The additional phase will begin once 70% of Illinoisans ages 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccination. The additional phase will allow social events up to 250 attendees indoors and 500 attendees outdoors; the capacity for seated spectator sports increase to 60% of total capacity; and seated indoor dining remains at 10 people per party. Phase 5 will begin with 50% of Illinoisans ages 16 and older have been vaccinated or COVID-19 metrics decline over a 28-day period.
Illinois published its five-phased re-opening plan creating eleven health regions, each with the ability to independently move through a phased approach.
The five phases for each health region are as follows:
Phase 1 – Rapid Spread: Every region has experienced this phase once already, and could return to it if mitigation efforts are unsuccessful.
Phase 2 – Flattening: Nonessential retail stores reopen for curb-side pickup and delivery. Illinoisans are directed to wear a face covering when outside the home and can begin enjoying additional outdoor activities like golf, boating and fishing while practicing social distancing. To varying degrees, every region is experiencing flattening as of early May.
Phase 3 – Recovery: The rate of infection among those surveillance tested, the number of patients admitted to the hospital, and the number of patients needing ICU beds is stable or declining. Manufacturing, offices, retail, barbershops and salons can reopen to the public with capacity and other limits and safety precautions. Gatherings limited to 10 people or fewer are allowed. Face coverings and social distancing are the norm.
Phase 4 – Revitalization: The rate of infection among those surveillance tested and the number of patients admitted to the hospital continues to decline. Gatherings of 50 people or fewer are allowed, restaurants and bars reopen, travel resumes, childcare and schools reopen under guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Face coverings and social distancing are the norm.
Phase 5 – Illinois Restored: With a vaccine or highly effective treatment widely available or the elimination of any new cases over a sustained period, the economy fully reopens with safety precautions continuing. Conventions, festivals and large events are permitted, and all businesses, schools and places of recreation can open with new safety guidance and procedures in place reflecting the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As businesses begin and continue their re-opening planning, we also recommend the following:
- Plans should be flexible. Businesses will need to be able to quickly transition if employees become ill or there is a local outbreak causing a shutdown.
- Have a “re-opening” plan to span 18 months.
- Create and clearly communicate a safety and cleaning plan:
- Include visibly demonstrating cleanliness and possible physical changes (examples include touchless doors, hand-sanitizer availability, sneeze guards/Plexiglas);
- Consider regular flow of employees/customers and possible spatial changes (examples include one-way walkways, spacing of desks and workspaces); and
- Review and follow CDC guidance for cleaning and disinfecting public spaces, workplaces, businesses: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/pdf/ReOpening_America_Cleaning_Disinfection_Decision_Tool.pdf
- Be prepared to address employees’ concerns, including:
- Child care issues while child care is still closed (family leave under Families First Coronavirus Response Act/Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act may apply);
- Interactions with clients/customers;
- How employees should interact with each other and customers (staying 6 feet apart, avoiding handshakes); and
- Challenges in getting to work/public transportation.
- Consider how COVID-19 accommodations and safety measures may require other adjustments. For example:
- Consider how breaks are scheduled and whether they should be staggered; and
- Determine if shifts need to be adjusted to increase social distancing or accommodate other changes. For example, if there are limits on the number of individuals in an elevator, you may want to stagger start times to avoid long lines.
- Address employee morale:
- Consider hazard pay, premium pay, or bonuses for front line employees;
- Communicate resources such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs); and
- Help employees ease back into at-work routines.
- Consider flexible telework options to avoid employees coming to work when they may be ill and to address childcare issues in the next three months.
- Update forms and policies:
- Telework and computer access forms and agreements with employees; and
- Forms to obtain sick leave or family leave under Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
Who to Contact:
Please reach out to your Lashly & Baer attorney or one of the Cross-Disciplinary Coronavirus Practice Team Attorneys if you have any questions about your re-opening plans.
- Julie Z. Devine
- James C. Hetlage
This summary and legal alert is an overview of the new guidance from federal, state, and local authorities. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice for a specific factual situation.