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Ohio Order Prohibits Mass Gatherings and Other Business Operations - Updated June 25, 2020

UPDATE – June 25, 2020 

Reopening Ohio

Ohio has continued to reopen under its Responsible Restart Plan.  Over the last month, the Department of Health has issued a number of orders reopening various businesses and venues, including:  

  • Gyms and fitness centers, non-contact sports leagues, golf courses, tennis facilities, bowling alleys, miniature golf, and public and club swimming pools; 
  • Entertainment venues, including aquariums, art galleries, country clubs, ice skating rinks, indoor family entertainment centers, indoor sports facilities, laser tag facilities, movie theaters, museums, playgrounds, public recreation centers, roller skating rinks, social clubs, trampoline parks, and zoos; 
  • Casinos, horse racing, amusement parks, and water parks, and 
  • County fairs and animal exhibitions.  

Significantly, pursuant to a May 29, 2020 Order issued by the Director of Health, all businesses must allow customers to wear face masks and must give written justification upon request explaining why an employee is not wearing a facial covering.  The order also provides sector-specific requirements and guidelines.  Further sector-specific guidelines, including mandatory and recommended best practices, can be found here.  

UPDATE – May 14, 2020

Reopening Ohio 

According to Governor DeWine’s Responsible Restart Ohio plan, a phased approach to reopening the Ohio economy: (1) certain health care operations may open May 1, 2020, including medical procedures that do not require an overnight stay in a hospital; (2) manufacturing, distribution, and construction operations and general offices may reopen on May 4, 2020; and (3) consumer, retail, and services can reopen May 12, 2020.  In addition, restaurants and bars will be permitted to reopen for (i) outdoor dining on May 15, 2020 and (ii) dine-in service on May 21, 2020; and personal care services – including, but not limited to hair salons, barbershops, day spas, nail salons, and tanning facilities – may reopen May 15, 2020.  To ensure reopening businesses operate as safely as possible, Governor DeWine has assembled sector-specific Advisory Groups which have created detailed lists of guidelines and best practices for businesses to follow.  The full list of mandatory and recommended best practices can be found here.

Responsible Restart Ohio also outlines general protocols with which any open or reopening business must comply, including, among other things: (1) requiring face coverings for employees and recommending them for clients/customers at all times; (2) conducting daily health assessments; and (3) limiting capacity to meet social distancing guidelines, including by establishing max capacity at 50% of fire code and using appointment settings where possible to limit congestion.  The plan also requires businesses to take certain actions if and when a COVID-19 infection is identified.

Safe At Home Order

On May 1, 2020, the Ohio Department of Health issued a Stay Safe Ohio Order, effective until May 29, 2020, which incorporates the openings of businesses and services according to the Responsible Restart Ohio plan and replaces the earlier Stay at Home Order.  The Order also sets forth General and Sector Specific COVID-19 Information and Checklists with which businesses/employers must comply. Notably, the Order continues certain restrictions implemented in the Stay at Home Order, including:  (1) requiring Ohioans to stay home except as specifically provided; (2) mandating social distancing outside of the home; and (3) prohibiting all public gatherings of any number of people outside of the home, with limited exceptions. 

Ohio is part of the Midwest Governors’ Pact which includes Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, Kentucky and Wisconsin.  The Pact is a working group of Midwest governors that will work in close coordination to reopen their economies following the COVID-19 response.

UPDATE – April 2, 2020

On April 2, 2020, Dr. Amy Acton signed an amended Director’s Order extending Ohio’s stay at home restrictions through May 1, 2020.  Notably, the amended Order contains new provisions, including:  (1) a requirement that people entering the state with the intent to stay self-quarantine for 14 days; (2) a mandate that certain retailers determine and enforce a maximum capacity to ensure proper social distancing; and (3) the creation of a dispute resolution panel to resolve any conflicts among local health departments regarding essential business designations.  Violations of the Order are punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $750.  

UPDATE – March 22, 2020

Earlier today, Ohio Director of Health Dr. Amy Acton signed a Director’s Order requiring Ohioans to “stay at home or at their place of residence except as allowed in this Order.”  The Order prohibits all public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or living unit – with limited exceptions – and advises that any gathering of more than ten people is prohibited unless exempted specifically.
 
The Order directs that individuals may leave their homes or places of residence only for “Essential Activities, Essential Governmental Functions, or to participate in Essential Businesses and Operations.”  The Order mandates that “non-essential” businesses and operations must cease.  
 
As set forth in the Order, the following are considered Essential Businesses and Operations, among others:  (1) the 16 infrastructure sectors – set forth here – identified by the federal government as vital to the security, public health, and safety of the United States; (2) businesses that sell, manufacture, or supply other essential businesses and operations with the support or materials needed to operate; (3) critical trades; and (4) manufacture, distribution, and supply chain for critical products and industries.  
 
Importantly, the Order requires all Essential Businesses to take proactive measures to ensure compliance with Social Distancing as defined in the Order.   
 
The Order will take effect on March 23, 2020 and will remain in effect until April 6, 2020.  

ORIGINAL Alert - March 18, 2020

In addition to postponing Ohio’s Primary Election until June 2, 2020, the Ohio Department of Health issued additional guidance on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, prohibiting mass gatherings and certain business operations to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  

Director of Health, Amy Acton, signed a Director’s Order prohibiting any event or convening that brings together 50 or more persons in a single room or other confined indoor or outdoor space at the same time.  The order is effective until rescinded or the State of Emergency declared by Governor Mike DeWine no longer exists.

Director Acton clarified that, for the purposes of this Order, a mass gathering does not include normal operations at airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, libraries, shopping malls and centers, or other spaces where 50 or more persons may be in transit; nor does it include typical office environments, schools, restaurants, factories, or retail or grocery stores where large numbers of people are present, but it is unusual for them to be within arm's length of one another.  Separately, on March 14 and March 15 respectively, the Department of Health ordered that all schools cease instruction and all bars and restaurants cease dine-in operations until further notice.  

Director Acton’s Order prohibits the following businesses from continuing operations during this public health emergency: 

  • Bowling alleys
  • Health clubs/fitness centers/workout facilities/gyms/yoga studios
  • Indoor trampoline parks
  • Indoor water parks
  • Movie theatres and performance theatres
  • Public recreation facilities and indoor sports facilities. 

Regardless of whether an event or gathering falls within the definition of mass gathering, the Department of Health urges all Ohians to maintain social distancing (approximately six feet away from other people) whenever possible and to continue to wash hands, utilize hand sanitizer, and practice proper respiratory etiquette.  Further, consistent with the Trump Administration’s guidance, the Department of Health recommends that Ohioans avoid unnecessary non-family gatherings of more than 10 people. 

It is not clear whether and to what extent Ohio will require or strongly recommend a “shelter in place” rule, similar to what has been ordered in Northern California and Orange County, California. Click here for the latest developments concerning Ohio’s response to Covid-19. 

© 2020 Foley & Lardner LLPNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 177

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About this Author

Christopher A. DeGennaro Litigation Attorney Foley & Lardner New York, NY
Associate

Christopher DeGennaro is an associate and litigation lawyer with Foley & Lardner LLP in New York. He is also a member of the firm’s Business Litigation & Dispute Resolution Practice. Chris has significant trial and alternative dispute resolution experience, having tried civil and criminal cases to verdict and represented corporations in mediations and arbitrations.

Prior to joining Foley, Chris served as a law clerk to the Honorable A. Kathleen Tomlinson in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Before his clerkship, Chris worked at a national law firm...

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Ann Marie Uetz, Foley Lardner, Debtor Representation, Bankruptcy Lawyer
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Ann Marie Uetz is a partner and trial attorney with Foley & Lardner LLP, where she represents clients in a variety of industries in all aspects of their contracts and business disputes. She also represents debtors, creditors and secured and unsecured lenders in all facets of restructuring. Ms. Uetz focuses her practice on business litigation and bankruptcy, two of Foley’s practice areas recently ranked by U.S. News—Best Lawyers® as “national First-Tier” practices in recognition of excellence in client service.

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