NOTE: Because the COVID-19 situation is dynamic, with new governmental measures each day, employers should consult with counsel for the latest developments and updated guidance on this topic.
On April 3, 2020, Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris executed a statewide Order, effective Saturday, April 4, 2020 at 5:00 p.m., requiring every person in Alabama to stay at their place of residence unless they are performing "essential activities," as listed below. The order also imposes certain restrictions on retailers.
Restrictions on Individuals
Individuals may leave their homes to obtain necessary supplies, including:
- Food and other consumer goods necessary to maintain daily routine or to maintain the safety or sanitation of a home or residence;
- Supplies needed to work from home;
- Pharmaceutical prescriptions or other medical supplies;
- Fuel for automobiles or other vehicles or other vehicle supplies;
- Materials for distance learning or other education-related purposes; and
- Any other supplies necessary to maintain a person's or pet's daily routine or to maintain the safety or sanitation of a home or residence.
Individuals may leave their homes to obtain or provide necessary services, such as:
- Dental, medical, or surgical procedures necessary to treat an emergency medical condition, to avoid serious harm from an underlying condition or disease, or as part of a patient's ongoing and active treatment;
- Government-funded services or benefits;
- Automobile repair services;
- Services vital to the treatment or care of people with physical, intellectual, or developmental disabilities, or people with substance abuse disorders;
- Services related to any public or private distance learning activities and education continuity; and
- Any other services necessary to maintain a person's or pet's daily routine or to maintain the safety or sanitation of a home or residence.
Individuals may leave their homes to obtain these supplies or necessary services for themselves, for other household members (including pets), or for a loved one or friend who cannot or should not leave home or who cannot care for themselves.
Individuals may leave their homes to attend religious worship services, weddings, or funerals, so long as the event:
- involves fewer than 10 people and the people maintain a consistent six-foot distance from one another; or
- is a "drive-in" worship service at which all participants remain in their vehicles, the participants in each vehicle share the same residence, and participants do not come within six feet of participants in other vehicles.
Individuals may leave their homes to take care of others, such as:
- To care for a family member, friend or pet in another household;
- To donate blood; or
- To transport family members, friends or pets as allowed by the order.
Individuals may leave their homes to work at "Essential Businesses and Operations" or to perform "Essential Work-Related Activities."
Essential Businesses and Operations include:
- Government Operations (such as public safety and first responders, law enforcement, fire prevention, courts and court personnel, military, corrections, probation and parole, child protection and welfare);
- Health-Care Providers and Caregivers (such as physicians, dentists, mental health workers, nurses, chiropractors, physical therapists, veterinarians, nursing homes, blood banks, home health workers and aides, medical supply and equipment manufacturers and providers, medical waste disposal);
- Infrastructure Operations (such as utilities, nuclear facilities, fuel pipelines, electronic security and life safety services, wireless communication companies, communications sales and customer supportairports, ports, roads and highways, and mass transit; automotive sales and repair, vehicle rental and taxi services, hotels and commercial lodging services, and RV parks);
- Manufacturing Facilities (such as food processing and production, companies that produce pharmaceuticals, food additives, medical equipment/devices/supplies, technology, biotechnology, chemical products, telecommunications products; automotive production and suppliers, airplane, ship, and space vehicle or rocket manufacturers; companies involved in healthcare, energy, steel and steel products, fuel and petroleum exploration and production, engine oils, mining, national defense, sanitary and cleaning products, household products, personal care products, products used by any other Essential Business or Operation);
- Agricultural Operations and Farms (such as food cultivation, livestock, cattle, poultry and seafood operations, transportation of agricultural products, livestock auctions, feedlots, farmer's markets, feed stores, repairers and suppliers of agricultural equipment, forestry operations, manufacture of lumber and paper products; meat processing facilities, rendering facilities/transporters, feed processing facilities, veterinary services);
- Essential Retailers (such as supermarkets, food and beverage stores, including liquor stores and warehouse clubs, food providers, convenience stores, office-supply stores, bookstores, computer stores, pharmacies, health care supply stores, hardware stores, home improvement stores, building materials stores, stores that sell electrical, plumbing, and heating materials, gun stores, gas stations; auto, farm equipment, bicycle, motorcycle, and boat supply and repair stores, and businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, and goods directly to residences);
- Restaurants and Bars (these businesses may continue to offer food for take-out or delivery provided the social distancing protocols, including maintaining a consistent six-foot distance between persons, are followed; they are strongly encouraged to offer online ordering and curbside pick-up of food; hospital food service areas are excluded from this order provided they have their own social distancing plan);
- Essential Personal Services (such as trash collection, mail and shipping services, home repair, automotive sales and repair; warehouse, distribution and fulfillment centers, kennels, animal shelters, laundromats/laundry service, drycleaners, childcare facilities, public transportation, and providers of business services including security and payroll; funeral, cemetery, and related services);
- Media operations (such as newspapers, digital news sites, television, radio and other media services);
- Education Operations (such as educators supporting public and private K-12 schools, colleges and universities or other educational institutions, for purposes of facilitating distance learning and education continuity plans, performing critical research or other essential functions, including public schools preparing and transporting distance-learning materials and meals);
- Financial Services (such as banks and related financial institutions, credit unions, payday lenders, businesses that process credit card and other financial transactions, and other services related to financial markets);
- Professional Services (such as legal, accounting, insurance, and real estate services (including appraisal and title services));
- Providers of Basic Necessities to Economically Disadvantaged Populations (such as food banks, homeless shelters and congregate-care facilities);
- Construction and Construction-Related Services (such as building and construction, lumber, building materials and hardware businesses, electricians, plumbers, other construction tradespeople, exterminators; cleaning and janitorial, HVAC and water heating businesses; painting, moving and relocating services);
- Essential Public Services (services necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operations of residences and essential businesses and essential business operations);
- Military or Defense Operations (employers and personnel who support the essential products and services required to meet national security commitments);
- Essential Services or Product Providers (such as vendors that provide services or products, including logistics, transportation, and technology support, child care programs and services, medical waste disposal, hazardous waste disposal);
- Religious Entities (religious and faith-based facilities, entities and groups);
- Federally-Designated Critical Infrastructure (workers and related industries identified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) in its Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response);
- Other State-Designated Essential Businesses and Operations (defined as businesses and operations deemed essential by the Alabama Department of Public Health or the Alabama Emergency Management Agency); and
- Support Operations for Essential Businesses and Operations (defined as employees, contractors, agents, suppliers, or vendors of an essential business or operation as above).
Essential Work-Related Activities are:
- Activities to maintain the value of a business, establishment, corporation or other organization, such as managing inventory, ensuring security, and processing payroll and employee benefits;
- Activities to enable people to work or shop remotely from their residences or to allow people to buy products through drive-by, curbside, or door-to-door delivery; and
- Activities that do not require any regular interaction within six feet of another person.
Individuals may leave their homes to engage in outdoor activity. A person may leave their place of residence to participate in outdoor activity that involves fewer than 10 people so long as the person maintains a consistent six-foot distance from other persons.
Individuals may leave their homes to seek shelter:
- A person may leave their place of residence to seek shelter if required by their employment by an "essential service of business" or if their residence is unsafe or at imminent risk of becoming unsafe; and
- A person may also leave a place of residence to seek help from providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged people, such as food pantries.
Individuals may leave their homes to travel as required by law. Specifically, a person may leave their place of residence to travel as required by law enforcement or court order, including the transportation of children required by a custody agreement.
Individuals may leave their homes to see family members, which includes visiting the residence of other persons who are related to them.
Restrictions on Retailers
Effective Saturday, April 4, 2020, at 5:00 p.m., all "essential retailers" as defined above, including grocery stores, pharmacies, and "big box" stores, must comply with the following rules in addition to any other applicable provisions of the order.
- Emergency Maximum Occupancy Rate. Occupancy shall be limited to no more than 50% of the normal occupancy load as determined by the fire marshal. This "emergency maximum occupancy rate" must be posted in a conspicuous place, and enough staff shall be posted at the store entrances and exits to enforce this requirement.
- Social Distancing. An employee of the essential retailer may not knowingly allow customers or patrons to congregate within six feet of one another.
- Sanitation. The essential retailer shall take reasonable steps to comply with guidelines on sanitation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alabama Department of Public Health.
A business may continue to operate through curbside pickup, delivery, remotely, or any other method that does not involve a customer entering its building, provided that the business takes all reasonable steps to ensure a consistent six-foot distance between persons.
The order remains in full force and effect until 5:00 p.m. on April 30, 2020 unless extended or revised before that time.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.