Ohio Begins to Go Back to Work

In COVID-19 Information Hub by Coolidge Wall

On Monday, April 27, 2020, Ohio Governor DeWine announced Ohio’s plan for nonessential business to return to normal operations. While Ohio’s Stay at Home Order remains in place and gatherings of 10 people or more are generally not permitted, the Governor announced that certain businesses can open on the following timetable:

May 1: Most Healthcare Procedures resume, provided that they do not require overnight stays. Dental and veterinary procedures may also resume.

May 4: Reopening for General Office Environments. The Department of Health provided mandatory and best practices guidance. Employees and guests must maintain social distancing and use physical barriers where distancing is not possible. Businesses are expected to require handwashing and other hygiene practices, reduce reliance on shared materials, limit travel, stagger arrival times, and post signage on healthy guidelines in common areas. Additionally, employees are still encouraged to work from home when possible. Best practices will include enabling natural ventilation, ensuring seating distances of 6 feet or more, providing employees with a health questionnaire checking for symptoms upon entry, and maintaining a temperature taking protocol.

Employers must frequently disinfect desks and common areas, cancel in-person events where distancing cannot be maintained, eliminate buffet meals, utilize disposable materials (tableware, etc.), and reduce occupancy levels to promote social distancing. Additionally, personnel should still work from home when possible. Recommended best practices include limiting gatherings in office spaces, redesigning workstations to foster social distancing, dividing essential staff into groups and establishing rotating shifts, and maintaining at least 3 weeks of cleaning supplies.

May 4: Reopening for Manufacturing, Distribution, and Construction Segments. Ohio’s Department of Health provided mandatory and best practices guidance that mirror the guidance provided for general office environments. Within this business segment, moreover, employers are expected to stagger lunch and break times and to change shift patterns (e.g. fewer shifts). Best practices for these work environments include providing a stipend to employees for private transportation, splitting employees into sub-teams and limiting contact across sub-teams, and reducing pace to allow fewer FTEs per line, closing cafeteria and gathering spaces if possible or cleaning them regularly, and performing daily deep disinfecting of the entire facility.

May 12: Most Consumer and Retail Services Will Open. In addition to many of the items set forth for other segments, employers in this segment will be required to group employees by shift to reduce exposure, clean high-touch items (such as carts or baskets) after each use, and provide specific hours for at-risk populations (such as the elderly). Retail businesses will also be required to suspend product sampling, self-service food stations, and food court operations. Best practices for customers and guests include providing a health questionnaire for symptoms and face coverings upon entry, increasing appointment only and curb-side pickup services, and suspending return policies.

Still to Come: Schools, Dine-In Restaurants and Bars, Entertainment, Recreation, and Gyms, Personal Appearance and Beauty Businesses, certain Older Adult Day Care Services and Senior Centers, and Adult Day Support or Vocational Habitation Services in Group Settings. Unfortunately, no timetable was established for opening these businesses. However, the Governor did announce a plan to increase testing capacity and hire employees to assist in contact tracing in the coming weeks which may improve the odds for these businesses to open soon.

The Department of Health also promoted a “Responsible Protocol” for all businesses:

1.  Require face coverings for employees and recommend them for clients/customers at all times. 

2. Conduct daily health assessments by employers and employees (self-evaluation) to determine if “fit for duty.”

3. Maintain good hygiene at all times – hand washing, sanitizing and social distancing.

4. Clean and sanitize workplaces throughout the workday, between shifts, and at closing.

5. Limit capacity to meet social distancing guidelines. This protocol provides a rule of thumb – limit capacity at 50% of fire code limits and plan appointments to limit congestion.

When a business detects a COVID-19 infection (customer or employee), they are to immediately report the infection to the local health district and work with the health department on contact tracing. After reporting, shut down the shop/floor for deep sanitation and professional cleaning. Consult with the local health department in reopening.

Whether your business has been open or is reopening, you should consult with professionals to make sure you are operating it safely and lawfully. Information on the protocol for your particular business segment can also be found at: https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/responsible-restart-ohio/Sector-Specific-Operating-Requirements/

Disclaimer: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. 

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