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

As more individuals become fully vaccinated, the CDC continues to release updated guidance on re-opening businesses, schools and communities. On May 13, 2021, the CDC issued guidance for fully vaccinated individual and indicated fully vaccinated individuals may resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, including local business and workplace guidance.
The CDC continues to release guidance relating to business and schools. It is expected that the CDC will release new guidance for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year soon.

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On May 14, 2021, St. Louis County rescinded its ReOpenSTL Order, which directed individuals to continue to wear masks and social distance regardless of vaccination status. The St. Louis County Department of Public Health, in accordance with the CDC guidance, recommends those who are not fully vaccinated to continue to wear masks and social distance while indoors and to either wear a mask or social distance while outdoors. St. Louis County Health Orders relating to Quarantine, Isolation, and Sheltering are still in place.

City of St. Louis Re-Opening Guidelines

On May 14, 2021, the City of St. Louis issued the Health Commissioner’s Order No. 1, which rescinded the Health Commissioner’s Orders 1 through 17.

Due to an increase in City of St. Louis residences becoming vaccinated, Order No. 18 provides businesses, individuals, academic and religious institutions, and government offices operating and living in the City of St. Louis should follow the CDC guidance to protect the community.

Illinois Re-Opening Plan

On May 14, 2021, Illinois entered into the “Bridge” Phase of the Restore Illinois reopening plan. The “Bridge” phase acts as a pathway toward the fifth and final phase of the Restore Illinois plan which all sectors of the economy reopen and all businesses and recreation resume normal operations.

As more Illinois residents ages 16 and older become vaccinated, Illinois will move into Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois plan.

Conclusion

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.

Prepared by:

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.

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