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 Sunday, March 22, 2020, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards issued a statewide "Stay at Home" Proclamation that goes into effect at 5:00 p.m., Monday, March 23, 2020. The Proclamation requires all individuals in the State of Louisiana to "stay at home unless performing an essential activity" as defined by the Proclamation. The Proclamation is available here.
The Proclamation comes as Louisiana has suffered one of the highest death tolls per capita as a result of the spread of COVID-19. The governor previously ordered casinos, bars, movie theatres, gyms and fitness centers closed and restricted restaurants to take-out, drive-through and delivery orders only. The Proclamation greatly expands these limitations to more activities and businesses.
The following are critical takeaways for employers regarding the Proclamation:
1. The Proclamation closes to the public the following non-essential businesses:
- All places of public amusement, including carnivals, amusement parks, water parks, trampoline parks, aquariums, zoos, museums, arcades, playgrounds, theaters, concert halls, adult entertainment venues, racetracks and other similar businesses;
- All personal care and grooming businesses, including barber shops, beauty salons, nail salons, spas, tattoo parlors and other similar businesses;
- All malls, except for individual stores in malls that have a direct outdoor entrance and exit and provide essential services and products as provided by the CISA1 guidelines listed below; and
- Casinos, bars, movie theatres, gyms and fitness centers closed to the public by the previous proclamation.
2. For businesses not ordered closed to the public (listed above) that are not essential (described below), the Proclamation requires minimum public contact and social distancing, meaning:
- These businesses are ordered to "reduce operations to continue with minimum contact with members of the public and essential employees, while requiring proper social distancing."
- The 10-person limitation on gathering size applies to these businesses.
3. Essential activities and work functions may continue.
Governor Edwards's Stay at Home Proclamation directs individuals within Louisiana to stay at home unless performing an essential activity. The Proclamation defines the following activities as essential:
- Obtaining food, medicine, and other similar goods necessary for the individual or a family member of the individual;
- Obtaining non-elective medical care and other similar vital services for the individual or a family member;
- Going to or from an individual's workplace to perform job functions in connection with (A) or (B) above or that are otherwise deemed essential worker functions pursuant to guidance provided by the CISA, available here;
- Going to or from the home of a family member;
- Going to or from the individual's place of worship; and
- Engaging in outdoor activities, provided individuals maintain a distance of six-feet from one another and abide by the 10-person limitation on gatherings.
CISA guidance defines the following categories of workers as essential:
- Health care and public health workers;
- Law enforcement, public safety, and first responders;
- Food and agriculture workers;
- Energy employees;
- Water and wastewater employees;
- Transportation and logistics employees;
- Public works employees;
- Communications and information technology employees;
- Community-based government operations and essential functions employees;
- Workers in critical manufacturing, such as products needed for medical supply chains, transportation, energy, communications, food and agriculture, and chemical manufacturing;
- Hazardous materials workers;
- Financial services employees; and
- Workers who support the essential services required to meet national security commitments to the federal government and U.S. military.
In a March 22, 2020 tweet following announcement of the Proclamation, the governor's office provided a list of examples of business categories consistent with the CISA guidance. That memorandum identifies businesses that fall in categories such as essential infrastructure, charitable and social services, hardware and supply stores, critical trades, supplies for essential businesses and operations, residential facilities and shelters, hotels and motels, and manufacturing, distribution and supply chain for critical products and industries. All such businesses may continue their operations under the Proclamation.
4. Private Daycare, Early Learning Centers, and Childcare Facilities May Continue Operation
The Proclamation also provides that privately-operated daycares, early learning centers, and childcare facilities may continue operations as long as they adhere to the guidance issued by the Louisiana Department of Health, available here. That guidance provides that these programs may continue, but suggests:
- Encouraging children who can stay home to do so;
- Encouraging children and staff to wash their hands frequently;
- Limiting child grouping;
- Encouraging frequent environmental cleaning;
- Limiting attendance to only well children. Any child with fever or cold symptoms should not participate in these programs for the duration of their illness; and
- Encouraging staff members in high-risk (elderly, those with medical conditions) categories to stay home.
5. All Louisiana businesses (even those temporarily closed to the public) can continue conducting necessary activities, which include:
- Cleaning services; and
- Maintenance or upkeep as necessary.
6. This Proclamation is effective from 5:00 p.m. on March 23, 2020 to April 13, 2020.
Governor Edwards will be evaluating the need for other mitigating measures and the need to extend these measures beyond April 13.
Additional information on the Proclamation can be found on the governor's website.
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.