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Questions Persist Regarding “Essential Businesses” Under Stay at Home Order

By Robert Gorman

March 27, 2020

Ohio’s Stay at Home Order (“Ohio Order”) continues to raise questions as to the types of businesses that may remain open and the rules under which they must operate during the Ohio Order.  The Ohio Order has also triggered various responses from local public health and law enforcement officials in Ohio.

The Ohio Order required non-essential business to cease most operations through April 6, 2020, but it encouraged “Essential Businesses” to remain open.  The 12-page document provided extreme detail regarding what constitutes an “essential business.”  As a result of the Ohio Order, many businesses remain lawfully open for business, as long as they observe rules of protection, including social distancing.

Since the Ohio Order went into effect, it has become clear that authorities in different jurisdictions are taking differing approaches in responding to the Ohio Order.  Some prosecutors and health departments are asking or requiring some businesses to cite the specific provisions of the Ohio Order that entitles the businesses to remain open.  This is not always an easy response, given the complexity of the Ohio Order and the legal verbiage involved. 

Our advice to businesses has three parts. 

First, do not stay open as an Essential Business unless you are sure that your business fits into one of the multiple definitions of “Essential Business” in the Ohio Order. 

Second, even if you stay open as an Essential Business, the Ohio Order requires you to observe certain specific social distancing requirements, such as encouraging frequent hand washing, regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces, and, where possible: (a) designating six-foot distances between all persons in the workplace, whether employees or customers; (b) having hand sanitizer and sanitizing products readily available; (c) implementing separate hours for elderly and vulnerable customers; and (d) posting online whether a facility is open and how best to reach the facility and continue services by phone or remotely. 

Third, if you have any questions about whether you are permitted to remain open, or how to communicate with public authorities, we suggest you contact an attorney familiar with the Ohio Order.  CCJ’s team of attorneys has reviewed the Ohio Order in detail and is prepared to help with any questions you may have.

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