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COVID-19: SoCal Shelter in Place Orders

Written by Susan Kohn Ross and Matthew S. Beasley

On March 19, 2020, the City of Los Angeles (“City”), the County of Los Angeles (“County”), and the State of California (“State”) each issued separate “shelter in place” orders in response to the Novel Coronavirus. Each generally requires that residents stay home unless they are engaged in work which the orders define as “essential.” Unfortunately, the orders are not consistent in how “essential” is defined. Moreover, on March 20 the State issued an updated order and expanded its definition of “essential.” For example, the State order now defines the following types of workers as essential: “Workers supporting the entertainment industries, studios, and other related establishments, provided they follow covid-19 public health guidance around social distancing.” The City and County orders, by contrast, do not currently include entertainment workers as “essential,” even though a significant portion of California’s entertainment workers are in Los Angeles.

Although Governor Newsom’s office has publicly stated that it is working to reconcile the State order with the various local orders, it is unclear when this will happen. Because it is difficult for companies to figure out what they can and should do, a careful review of each order that applies is needed.

The City order provides that, except for “essential businesses,” all businesses in the City of Los Angeles must cease operations that require in-person attendance by employees at their workplace.  No provision is made for business continuity of “non-essential” businesses.  The City order lists 23 categories of “essential businesses.”  Those essential businesses consist of the following categories and a copy of the order should be consulted for more specifics:

Healthcare operations;
Grocery stores, water retailers, certified farmers’ markets, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, convenience stores, warehouse stores, food banks, convenience stores;
Food cultivation, including farming, livestock, and fishing;
Organizations and businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals;
Newspapers, television, radio, magazine, podcast and other media services;
Gas service stations, auto supply, mobile auto repair operations, auto repair shops and the like;
Banks, credit unions, financial institutions and insurance companies;
Hardware and building supply stores, and nurseries;
Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, custodial/janitorial workers, handyman services, funeral home workers and morticians, moving services, HVAC installers, carpenters, landscapers, gardeners, property managers, private security personnel, etc.;
Businesses providing mailing and shipping services;
Educational institutions — for distance learning purposes;
Restaurants and retail food facilities that prepare and offer food to customers, but only via delivery service, to be picked up, or drive-thru;
Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home;
Businesses that supply other essential businesses with the support, services, or supplies necessary to operate;
Individuals and businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, beverages or goods directly to residences or businesses, including rail and trucking;
Airlines, taxis, ride sharing services, and other private transportation services providing transportation services necessary for essential activities;
Home-based care for disabled persons, seniors, adults, or children;
Residential facilities and shelters for homeless residents, disabled persons, seniors, adults, children and animals;
Professional services, such as legal, payroll or accounting services, when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities;
Childcare facilities under specific circumstance;
Hotels, motels, shared rental units and similar facilities; and
Military/Defense Contractors and Federally Funded Research and Development Centers.

The order goes on to refer to “Essential Infrastructure” as “any services or goods or perform any work necessary to build, operate, maintain or manufacture essential infrastructure, including without limitation construction of commercial, office and institutional buildings, residential buildings and housing; airport operations, food supply, concessions, and construction; port operations and construction; water, sewer, gas, electrical, oil extraction and refining; roads and highways, public transportation and rail; solid waste collection and removal; flood control and watershed protection; internet and telecommunications systems (including the provision of essential global, national, and local infrastructure for computing services, business infrastructure, communications, and web-based services); and manufacturing and distribution companies deemed essential to the supply chains of the industries described in this paragraph.

The County order defines essential businesses as:

Grocery stores;
Food cultivation, including farming, livestock and fishing;
Businesses that provide food, shelter and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needed individuals;
Newspapers, television, radio, magazine, podcast and other media services;
Gas stations, and auto supply, auto repair, car dealerships and related facilities;
Banks, credit unions, and related financial institutions;
Hardware stores, nurseries and building supplies;
Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, custodial/janitorial workers, handyman services, funeral home workers and morticians, moving services, HVAC installers, carpenters vegetation services, tree maintenance, landscapers, gardeners, property managers, privacy security personnel and other service providers who provide services essential to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation to properties and essential businesses;
Businesses providing mailing and shipping services;
Educational institutions for distance learning;
Laundromats, dry cleaners, laundry service providers, personal grooming services;
Restaurants and other food facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery, drive thru or carry out;
Businesses that supply office or computer products for those working from home;
Businesses that supply other essential business with the support or supplies necessary to operate;
Businesses that ship, truck, provide logistical support or delivery groceries, food, goods or services directly to residence, essential businesses, health care operations, essential infrastructure;
Airlines, taxis and other private transportation providers for specific purposes;
Home based care for seniors, adults, disabled persons or children;
Residential facilities and shelters for seniors, adults, disabled persons and children;
Professional services, such as legal and accounting as described in the order, and the permitting, inspection, construction, transfer and recording of ownership, of housing and anything incidental thereto;
Military, defense contractors and Federally Funded Research and Development Centers and related agencies;
Childcare facilities under specific circumstances; and
Hotels, motels, shared rental units and similar facilities.

As with all of these other orders, individual companies should review those which apply to them to determine how they are impacted.

The latest State order continues to require all Californians to stay at home but was revised on March 20th to expand the definition of essential workers. But you should not rely solely on this list; local jurisdictions may have different ‘shelter at home’ orders that must also be consulted before concluding your business is “essential,” and those local orders may be more restrictive. The expanded definition of essential workers in this new State list consists of specific types of workers in broad fields. The order itself should be consulted for details. The fields listed are: Healthcare / Public Health, Emergency Services Sector, Food and Agriculture, Energy, Water and Wastewater, Transportation and Logistics; Communications and Information Technology, Other Community-Based Government Operations and Essential Functions, Critical Manufacturing, Hazardous Materials, Financial Services, Chemical and Defense Industrial Base. If you believe the State order conflicts with an order issued by your local government or you have questions regarding how the orders apply to your business, please consult an attorney for specific guidance.

We are in this article discussing only the current impact of the existing orders. Whether you are located in Los Angeles and California generally or anywhere else in the country, you should review the various shelter in place orders which apply to your company in order to determine whether all, some or none of your workers qualify as “essential.” Given the fast pace at which these orders are being issued, companies will also want to continue to monitor new and updated shelter in place orders.

Should you conclude any part of your business meets the definition of “essential,” the best practice would be to have your staff telecommute as much as possible, and then for the on-site staff, to minimize that head count while having those individuals implement social distancing and the other preventive health measures being widely discussed by sources such as the CDC and your state and local health authorities.

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