The Director of the Department of Health and Senior Services issued a statewide Stay at Home order, effective Monday, April 6, 2020, through Friday, April 24, 2020, in response to the spread of COVID-19 in our state. The order provides instruction for businesses that can continue to operate and establishes criteria to determine those businesses that cannot continue for the time being.
The order also establishes a waiver process through which certain businesses that might otherwise be required to close under the order could obtain a waiver from the Director of the Department of Economic Development (Department).
Everyone is encouraged to visit the Department’s website and read its summary of the order and accompanying FAQs. Here are some things for businesses to keep in mind about the order and the waiver process:
- The order does not require all businesses to close.
- Businesses that can operate with 10 or fewer people in a single space and with each person 6 feet or greater apart, known as “social distancing,” from all others can continue to operate. This applies to restaurants, which may continue to operate drive-through, curbside, and dine-in options, as long as the preceding two requirements are met. Restaurant employees count toward the 10-person maximum.
- Businesses whose employees perform “essential worker functions” per guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security can continue to operate. Their workers should follow the most current health practices recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the extent possible. When feasible, their employees should work from home and should practice social distancing at work except when their job duties require otherwise.
- For businesses whose employees perform essential worker functions and that engage in retail sales to the public, for example, grocery stores, the order provides occupancy limits depending on the size of the particular retail location and applicable fire or building code occupancy standards. The order summary explains the limits of how many people can shop at a time at a given location, and the FAQs walk through how to calculate the limit depending on the location size and occupancy standard, and how to calculate it if no occupancy standard applies.
- The order provides a waiver request process through the Department for businesses whose employees do not perform “essential worker functions” and who cannot operate with 10 people or fewer in a single space but wish to continue to operate.
a. The only aspect of operation to which a waiver would potentially apply is the social gatherings requirement.
b. Because a waiver would only apply to the social gatherings requirement, businesses whose employees perform non-essential functions and who could not abide by social distancing while operating will not qualify for a waiver.
c. In order to receive a waiver, businesses whose employees perform non-essential functions must establish in their request why excepting them from the social gatherings requirement and allowing them to continue operating would be in the interest of public health and safety.
- Businesses wishing to request a waiver should visit the Department’s website at http://ded.mo.gov/businesswaiver and complete the online submission form.
a. The form is very short, should not take more than a few minutes to complete, and should cause an auto-confirmation to be sent nearly immediately to the requester. (Requesters may want to ensure that their email filters do not regard the domains used in the waiver process (http://oa.mo.gov and http://ded.mo.gov) as spam.)
b. All waiver requests need to be routed through this online process to guarantee timely receipt, confirmation, review, and response.
c. The Department intends to review each request and respond daily.
d. A business should submit a separate request for each physical location that it wishes to continue operating despite not meeting the essential worker or social gatherings requirement.
e. Businesses whose workers perform essential functions or who can operate with 10 or fewer workers each 6 feet or greater apart do not need, should not request, and will not receive a waiver from the order.
- In addition to the state order, local ordinances or orders may apply depending on a business’s location. Such local authority may be more restrictive and would still apply to the business without regard to any waiver from the Department. Therefore, if a business is located in a county or city with more strict requirements than the state order, they should not request a waiver.