Several jurisdictions recently imposed restrictions to limit the size of gatherings and close or reduce in-person operations of various “non-essential businesses,” all in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 through increased social distancing. Below, we summarize the restrictions and the exceptions for “essential businesses” applicable to dozens of jurisdictions. Because these public health recommendations (and in some cases, mandatory orders) are issued from the state and local/county/municipal levels of government, they are not uniform across the U.S., and their definitions of “essential businesses” may differ from state to state and from city to city. Close attention to the specific terms of these local and state department of health issuances is therefore critical. We offer this compendium in order both to give some current information about these local orders, as well as to demonstrate how these orders may differ geographically. 

I. Federal

  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency ("CISA") issued federal guidance specifically identifying which workers in the below listed industries it considers "essential." These guidelines are not binding on states, but may be used as a template for states and localities issuing restrictive measures related to COVID-19. See CISA Memo on Essential Critical Infrastructure dated March 19, 2020.
    • (i) Health care/public health; (ii) law enforcement, public safety, and first responders; (iii) food and agriculture; (iv) energy, including electricity, petroleum, and natural gas/propane; (v) water and waste water; (vi) transportation and logistics; (vii) public works; (viii) communications and technology; (ix) community based government operations; (x) critical manufacturing; (xi) hazardous materials; (xii) financial services; (xiii) chemical; and (xiv) defense industrial base. Id.

II. Alabama (Statewide; Birmingham)

  • Statewide
    • Effective March 19, 2020 at 5:00 p.m., all gatherings of 25 persons or more that cannot maintain consistent six-foot distances between persons are prohibited. Order of the State Health Officer Suspending Certain Public Gatherings Due to Risk of Infection by COVID-19, dated March 19, 2020.
    • All restaurants, bars, breweries, or other establishments shall not permit on-premises consumption of food or drink. Such establishments may offer food for take-out or delivery, bust must maintain social distancing protocols (including six-foot distance between persons). Id.
    • All beaches are closed, whether privately or publicly owned. Id.
    • All schools, public and private, are closed. Does not apply to childcare centers operated for exclusive benefit of essential employees (including government, first responders and law enforcement, hospitals, nursing home/long term care facilities, end stage renal disease treatment centers, pharmacies, and grocery stores). For exception to apply, the childcare center must be employer-operated and located on the premises of, or in the immediate vicinity of, of the exception categories. Id.
    • Hospitals and nursing home/long term care facilities shall prohibit visitation of all visitors and non-essential health care personnel, except for certain compassionate care situations. Id.
      • All elective dental and medical procedures shall be delayed. Id.
    • Organizers of events may submit a request for exemption from this order. The Alabama State Health Officer may consider an exemption based on whether effective preventative measures are taken and to what extent the organizer can ensure that no one effected by COVID-19 will be in attendance. Requests for exemption must be submitted at least two weeks in advance of any scheduled event. Id.
    • Birmingham
      • Effective March 24, 2020 at 12:00 p.m. until April 3, 2020 at 12:00 a.m., all persons in the city of Birmingham are required to remain in their homes. All gatherings of 10 persons or more that cannot maintain consistent six-foot distances between persons are prohibited. City of Birmingham Ordinance No. 20-48.
      • All nonessential businesses within the City of Birmingham must comply with this order, including: (i) entertainment businesses; (ii) recreational facilities; (iii) grooming salons and spas; (iv) retail stores; (v); concert venues and theaters; (vi) tourist attractions; (vii) body art facilities; (viii) massage therapy services; (ix) social clubs; and (x) other social events. Id.
      • Exceptions to the stay-at-home order apply to people engaging in essential activities, including: (i) visiting a health or veterinary care professional; (ii) obtaining medical supplies, medication, or grocery items; (iii) legally mandated government purposes; (iv) providing care for minors, the elderly, dependents, or other vulnerable persons; (v) returning to place of residence from outside the City; (vi) travelling through the city; (vii) compliance from an order of law enforcement; (viii) travelling to or from a place that provides essential services (ix) to perform work providing essential products and services; (x) to care for or support a friend, family member, or pet in another household; (xi) to provide essential goods and services; and (xii) to provide services, goods, or work necessary to build, operate, maintain or manufacture essential infrastructure. Id.
        • Essential infrastructure includes: (i) construction of commercial, office and institutional buildings, residential buildings and housing; (ii) airport operations; food supply, concessions, and construction; (iii) port operations and construction; water, sewer, gas, electrical, oil extraction and refining; (iv) roads and highways, transportation and rail; (v) solid waste collection and removal; (vii) flood control and watershed protection; (viii) internet and telecommunications systems; (ix) and manufacturing and distribution companies deemed essential to the supply chains of the industries referenced in this paragraph. Id.
        • Those engaged in these activities must maintain social distancing requirements (including six-foot distances). Id.
    • Enforcement: Violation of this order is punishable by the general penalty provided in Sec. 1-1-6 of the General Code of the City of Birmingham, which includes a fine of up to $500.00 or by imprisonment of up to six months, or both. Id.

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