The Lockdown: Part II

As we all had feared, the Coronavirus pandemic has only gotten worse in the U.S. as temperatures have gotten colder, resulting in another extended quarantine for Minnesotans.  This time, the Governor has, through his 99th executive order of the year, returned Minnesota back to where it was in May, with restaurants being closed and gatherings being restricted.

However, the rules for many businesses are somewhat more relaxed than they were in spring of this year, but it is important for everyone to adhere to the guidance of the Minnesota Department of Health.  That means teleworking whenever possible, following sanitary guidelines, avoiding contact with others outside of your home for greater than six minutes at a time, washing hands, and of course wearing masks.

Some of the other changes include the following:

  • Social gatherings involving individuals who are not of the same household are prohibited. However, this does not include activities taking place at businesses that are allowed to remain open, places of public accommodation, educational services, healthcare providers, legislative and governmental meetings, drive-ins, and weddings (while following social distancing guidelines).
  • Outdoor activities are restricted to activities where individuals from other households will not come into contact with one another.
  • Unnecessary travel is “strongly discouraged.” This is likely connected to a state’s inability to restrict interstate transit.  However, any travel that is not necessary is discouraged, and those who travel out of state are encouraged to self-quarantine for 14 days.  Businesses engaging in interstate transit should be mindful of this advisory, as Covid-19 cases are widespread in all of Minnesota’s neighboring states.  In addition, employees should be warned about the dangers of meeting with family outside of their household for the holidays so as to avoid the spread of the virus.
  • Places of public accommodation are allowed to remain open only if they abide by the requirements established in on June 29. However, the following businesses are not considered places of public accommodation:
    • Stores that sell food not for on-premises consumption;
    • Health care facilities;
    • Crisis shelters;
    • Restaurants in airports.
  • Restaurants, pools, gyms, entertainment venues, and professional and collegiate sports venues are closed to the public.
  • Personal care services are allowed to remain open (for those worried about keeping an even tan over the winter).

As has been consistent since June, all businesses staying open must have a plan for safe operation, consistent with Minnesota Department of Health guidance.  Businesses must have a plan for safe operation posted for all workers to see, or e-mail the plan to staff.

Schools, including higher education institutions, have yet to be closed or sent to full-time distance learning, despite many of them being hotbeds for Coronavirus transmission.  However, due to the known dangers posed to both faculty and students, it is advised that those institutions shift to full-time distance learning.  Remember, there can be serious implications for both worker safety under OSHA and worker’s compensation if employees become ill while at work.

The guidance is clear: if employees can work from home, they should be doing so.  Employers who encourage employees, contractors, vendors or volunteers to violate the executive order are subject to 90 days in jail or a $3,000 fine.  On top of this alleged violations can be subject to civil penalties of up to $25,000 per occurrence.

No one wants to go into quarantine again, but it’s necessary to stem the spread of the virus that is taking more and more lives of Minnesotans every day.  It is incredibly important that businesses heed the executive orders for the safety of all.  If you, or your organization need help in complying with the Governor’s latest executive order, contact the Wiley Law Office, for compliance advice that works.