News & Events

What You Need to Know About “Shelter in Place” Orders

More cities and states are issuing “shelter in place” orders (or at least recommendations) to combat the spread of COVID-19. Some states are banning gatherings of various sizes and limiting the number of people who can go to work. This article will address what businesses can do to comply with these orders and protect their workplace, and it will also provide resources relevant to affected jurisdictions.

To begin with, it is important to recognize that different state or local laws may apply depending on your location. If you operate in multiple states, then you need to ensure that your actions comply with all states. Also, state and local governments are still developing plans and issuing orders as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds. To know whether your jurisdiction is subject to a “shelter in place” order, you can visit your state’s website for the secretary of state or emergency management agency. The table at the end of this Article contains the latest information on “shelter in place” orders of which we are currently aware.

What is a “Shelter in Place” order?

Most “shelter in place” orders mandate that citizens stay in their homes under quarantine unless they have an emergency or unavoidable need to leave their house (e.g., to get food). Most orders restrict or prohibit “non-essential” individuals from going to work. Other orders restrict the number of people that can gather together at any given time (except when working for an essential business).

A business being considered “non-essential” and ordered to close could have huge ramifications. But there may be ways that you can modify procedures to continue operations. Many employers have switched to “telework” or “telecommuting.” Some restaurants that have suspended their dine-in options are offering take-away, curbside, or delivery food services. But business may still have trouble making payroll and paying expenses. Keep in mind that there are various types of loans available during disasters that could help to keep your business afloat until the pandemic subsides.

What do I need to look for in my jurisdiction’s Shelter in Place order?

Every Shelter in Place order is different. It is crucial that you make yourself aware of the nuances to your jurisdictions’ orders and updates. Some things you will want to think about as it relates to orders that apply to you and your business:

  • Is the order directed to businesses, individuals, or both? I.e., does it order businesses to close, employees to stay home, or both? Or does it just prohibit gatherings over a certain size, or mandate social distancing?
  • Are certain businesses or individuals excluded? Do you or your business qualify as “essential”?
    • Your jurisdiction’s order may be vague, but check for guidance from the government, whether in the form of an infographic, FAQ, or direction to refer to DHS’s designation of “essential critical infrastructure workforce.”
    • To assist you in these determinations, we have provided a discussion below of what “essential” means, and we have included information in the chart below on where to find out how your jurisdiction defines “essential.”
  • If you are exempt, or if you have categories of employees that are exempt from a shelter in place order, you may need to provide documentation to show law enforcement, landlords, etc. that you, your business, or your employees are essential.
  • Does your jurisdiction provide a process for you to apply for a waiver or an exemption so that your business can continue operating even if it is not technically “essential”? What procedures are in place for obtaining a waiver or exemption?

Bottom line: You need to be aware of what your jurisdiction’s order says. Know what level of restrictions are in play and whether you and your business are subject those restrictions (including whether what you do is “essential”, and then find the best way to continue operations accordingly, or cease operations while complying with applicable laws, and in view of any new orders.

But what does “essential” even mean?

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the nation’s “essential-critical-infrastructure-workforce” includes the following industries: Health Care/Public Health; Law Enforcement, Public Safety, First Responders; Food and Agriculture; Energy; Water and Wastewater; Transportation and Logistics; Public Works; Communications and Information Technology; Other Community-Based Government Operations and Essential Functions; Critical Manufacturing; Hazardous Materials; Financial Services; Chemical; and Defense Industrial Base. For more information on these broad categories, go to: https://www.cisa.gov/publication/guidance-essential-critical-infrastructure-workforce.

Many states have adopted the Department of Homeland Security’s definition of essential, but many other states have not. You will have to check your specific jurisdiction’s accepted definition, which may be found on the table below.

So, what am I supposed to do?

Othering that scouring your applicable government websites for guidance, you may wish to consider consulting with legal counsel for help dealing with specific situations for each jurisdiction. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. While abiding by a shelter in place order, employers must comply with new federal legislation for paid Family and Medical Leave and paid sick leave, as well as with the federal OSHA standards for workplace safety related to COVID-19. Compliance with state and local laws may be more difficult to understand, but generally you will be required to abide by the strictest rules that apply in your jurisdiction.  So, for instance, if you are under both a state order and a local order, you must comply with the strictest aspects of both.  So, for instance, if the local order you are under is stricter than the state order you are under, you must apply with the stricter provisions of the local order.  However, if the state order is stricter, you must follow the state order.

Should we begin “telecommuting”?

Businesses that can operate remotely via telework setups should strongly consider doing so—especially if a shelter in place or similar order applies. Businesses that are able to continue normal (or mostly normal) operations without having employees leave their homes should do so, especially if a shelter in place order is looming on the horizon. In that case, businesses would likely benefit from having a transition time where employees move to working from home, but may still go into the office if needed to gather supplies or move equipment necessary for normal operations.

What happens if I refuse to comply?

Presumably, local law enforcement personnel will be tasked with enforcing state and local “shelter at home” orders, but enforcing such orders may prove impossible where “essential” businesses are allowed to stay open. Some authorities, like Los Angeles, have threatened to turn off utility services to business that refuse to comply. Others, like Birmingham, may issue fines for non-compliance. Be sure to know what enforcement procedures are in place for your jurisdiction.

Businesses should also be aware that violations of applicable orders could be grounds for OSHA violations, as if your jurisdiction has issued a shelter in place or a restriction on gatherings due to pandemic conditions, your workplace might be deemed inherently unsafe.  Therefore, businesses should continually assess whether their policies and procedures are in line with OSHA requirements during this tumultuous time.

Other issues to consider:

  • Will you be able to provide goods and services to your clients?
  • Will you be able to pay rent? What about vendor invoices?
  • Will you need loans, including SBA Economic Injury loans? Does your jurisdiction’s government’s website have any resources for community-based loans?
  • Will you be eligible for payroll tax credits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act?
  • For employers under collective bargaining agreements, are you likely to experience any NLRA implications?
  • What are the other implications on your Commercial Transactions and Real Estate?
  • Do you have insurance coverage for the above? Will you have any other insurance implications, including “Business Income”/”Civil Authority” Coverage? When do you need to give your insurer notice that you will be making a claim?
  • You should consider how to Develop Policies and Procedures to Combat COVID-19.
  • Your status and obligations as an employer and related workforce issues may include:
    • Appropriate monitoring of telework arrangements;
    • Obligations to provide mandatory paid leave under state laws and new FFCRA (as of April 1);
    • Ramifications of layoffs and furlough, including notice requirements to the impacted workforce; and
    • Funding health benefits and retirement plans.
  • How does the CARES Act affect your business?
  • For other issues you may have, please see Butler Snow’s FAQ for Employers.

Affected Jurisdictions:

As of March 31 at midnight, the following jurisdictions have instituted Shelter in Place or similar orders prohibiting non-essential activities and closing non-essential businesses:

State City/County Effective Date Current End Date What is “Essential”? Other Resources
AL Birmingham March 24 April 3 Listed in Order. State Policy Updates from Butler Snow Government Relations Practice Group
STATE-WIDE March 28 April 17 Listed in Order.  
AK STATE-WIDE March 28 To be reevaluated April 11 Alaskan Critical Infrastructure  
AZ STATE-WIDE March 31 April 30 Listed in Order.  
Navajo Nation March 20 April 4 Listed in Order.  
AR No order currently in place.
CA STATE-WIDE March 19 Until further notice. Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers  
CO STATE-WIDE March 26 April 11 Listed in Order. State Policy Updates from Butler Snow Government Relations Practice Group
Navajo Nation March 20 April 4 Listed in Order.  
CT STATE-WIDE March 23 April 22 Listed in Order.  
DE STATE-WIDE March 24 May 15 Essential Businesses Non-Essential Closure Frequently Asked Questions
FL Miami March 24 Until further notice. Listed on Miami Government website HERE. Coronavirus in Florida: Gov. DeSantis rejects sheltering in place, calls it ‘blunt instrument’” (USA Today, March 23)
Miami Beach March 24 March 26 Listed in Order.
Alachua County March 24 Until State of Emergency expires. Listed in Order
Leon County March 25 March 30 Work exempted from “Stay at Home” Order.
Orange County March 26 April 9 Listed in Order.
Pinellas County March 26 Until State of Emergency expires. Listed in Order.
GA Athens-Clarke County March 19 April 7 Essential Business Categories. State Policy Updates from Butler Snow Government Relations Practice Group
Atlanta March 24 April 6 Listed in Order.
Blakely March 24 Until further notice. Listed in Order.
Carrollton March 25 Until further notice. Listed in Order.
Covington March 26 April 7 Listed in Order.
Dougherty March 25 April 7 Listed in Order.
Savannah March 24 April 8 Listed in Order.
HI STATE-WIDE March 25 April 30 Listed in Order.  
ID STATE-WIDE March 25 April 15 Essential Services Frequently Asked Questions
IL STATE-WIDE March 21 April 7 Essential Businesses and Operations  
IN STATE-WIDE March 24 April 6 Essential Businesses and Operations

(DHS Definition)

and categories listed in Order.

Frequently Asked Questions
IA No order currently in place.
KS STATE-WIDE March 24 Earliest  of April 19 or termination of the State of Emergency. Listed in Order.  
KY STATE-WIDE March 25 Duration of the State of Emergency. Essential Businesses and Operations

(DHS Definition)

 
LA STATE-WIDE March 23 April 13 Listed in Order. State Policy Updates from Butler Snow Government Relations Practice Group

 

Louisiana Governor Issues Statewide Stay at Home Order; Medicine and Non-Elective Medical Care and Treatment May Still be Obtained

 

Louisiana Department of Health Notice on Elective Medical and Surgical Procedures and Other Healthcare Services

 

Louisiana Department of Health Directs Louisiana Healthcare Providers to Transition All Services to Telehealth When Medically Appropriate

 

Force Majeure

ME STATE-WIDE March 25 April 30 Executive Order 19 FY 19/20  
MD STATE-WIDE March 23 Until after termination of the state of emergency. Critical Infrastructure

 

Interpretive Guidance

 
MA STATE-WIDE March 24 April 7 Essential Services Though the Order is not a “shelter in place” order, it does order closure of non-essential businesses.
MI STATE-WIDE March 24 April 13 Essential Businesses and Operations

(DHS Definition)

 
MN STATE-WIDE March 27 April 10 Essential Businesses and Operations

(DHS Definition)

Frequently Asked Questions
MS STATE-WIDE April 3, 5:00 PM April 30 Executive Order 1463 State Policy Updates from Butler Snow Government Relations Practice Group

 

Mississippi Department of Health and Mississippi Medical Licensure Board – Postponement of Elective Medical Procedures and Non-Essential Medical Visits

 

Mississippi Governor Issues Two Executive Orders to Help Combat COVID-19

 

Mississippi Expands Unemployment Benefits to Workers Affected by COVID-19

MO Kansas City March 24 April 23 Listed in Order. Frequently Asked Questions
St. Louis March 23 April 22 Listed in Order.  
Clay County March 24 April 24 Listed in Order.  
Jackson County March 24 April 24 Listed in Order.  
MT STATE-WIDE March 28 April 10 Listed in Order.  
NE No order currently in place.
NV No order currently in place.
NH STATE-WIDE March 27 May 4 Emergency  Order 17 Exhibit A  
NJ STATE-WIDE March 21 Until further notice. Listed in Order.  
NM STATE-WIDE March 24 Duration of the State of Emergency. Listed in Order.  
Navajo Nation March 20 April 4 Listed in Order.  
NY STATE-WIDE March 22 April 17 Essential Businesses.  
NC STATE-WIDE March 30 April 29 Listed in Order, and Essential Businesses and Operations

(DHS Definition)

 
Durham March 26 April 30 Listed in Order.  
Mecklenburg County March 26 April 16 Listed in Order.  
Wake County March 27 April 16 Listed in Order, and Essential Businesses and Operations

(DHS Definition)

 
Orange County March 27 April 30 isted in Order, and Essential Businesses and Operations

(DHS Definition)

 
ND No order currently in place.
OH STATE-WIDE March 23 April 6 Essential Businesses and Operations

(DHS Definition)

and categories listed in Order.

 
OK Norman March 25 April 14 Listed in Order.  
OR STATE-WIDE March 23 Until further notice. Listed in Order.  
PA ORDER March 23 April 6 Stay at Home Order Guidance The order applies to:

  • Allegheny County
  • Bucks County
  • Chester County
  • Delaware County
  • Erie County
  • Lehigh County
  • Monroe County
  • Montgomery County
  • Northampton County
  • Philadephia County
RI STATE-WIDE March 30 April 13 Listed in Order  
SC Charleston March 26 April 9 Listed in Order.  
SD No order currently in place.
TN STATE-WIDE March 31 April 14 Listed in Order. State Policy Updates from Butler Snow Government Relations Practice Group

 

Tennessee TennCare Permits Telehealth for Patients at Home

TX Bell County March 23 April 3 Listed in Order. State Policy Updates from Butler Snow Government Relations Practice Group
Bexar County March 24 April 9 Listed in Order.
Dallas County March 23 April 3 Listed in Order.
El Paso County March 24 Until expiration of the state of local disaster. Listed in Order.
Harris County March 24 April 3 Listed in Order.
Hunt County March 24 April 3 Listed in Order.
McLennan County March 23 April 7 Listed in Order.
Robertson County March 25 April 8 Listed in Order.
Tarrant County March 24 April 7 Listed in Order.
Travis County March 24 May 1 Listed in Order.
Williamson County March 24 April 13 Listed in Order.
UT Navajo Nation March 20 April 4 Listed in Order.  
VT STATE-WIDE March 25 April 15 Listed in Order.  
VA STATE-WIDE March 30 June 10 Executive Order 53  
WA STATE-WIDE March 23 April 6 Essential Businesses and Operations

(DHS Definition)

 
WV STATE-WIDE March 24 Until further notice. Essential Businesses and Operations

(DHS Definition)

Office of the Governor’s Summary.
WI STATE-WIDE March 25 April 24 Listed in Order.  
WY No order currently in place.
DC CITY-WIDE April 1 April 24 Mayor’s Order 2020-053  

*This list only includes orders as of midnight on March 31. Optional recommendations and requests are not included. This list is not exhaustive. There may be jurisdictions with applicable orders that are not listed.