Ohio Issues Consolidated Order for Social Distancing, Facial Coverings, and Limits on Gatherings

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On April 5, 2021, Director of Ohio’s Department of Health (ODH), Stephanie McCloud, issued two new orders, including a consolidated Director’s Order for Social Distancing, Facial Coverings and Non-Congregating and a Director’s Order Rescinding Various Orders. The orders went into effect on April 5, 2021, and the Order for Social Distancing, Facial Coverings and Non-Congregating will remain in force until the ODH modifies or rescinds it. Below is a summary of important information from the two new orders.

Director’s Order Rescinding Various Orders

Three prior orders directed businesses and employers to “[s]trongly encourage as many employees as possible to work from home by implementing policies in areas such as teleworking and video conferencing,” including: (1) the May 29, 2020, Director’s Updated and Revised Order for Business Guidance and Social Distancing; (2) the July 6, 2020, Director’s Second Order to Extend the Expiration Date of Various Orders; and (3) the July 23, 2020, Director’s Order for Facial Coverings throughout the State of Ohio. All three of these orders were specifically rescinded in the ODH’s April 5, 2021, rescission order.

Director’s Order for Social Distancing, Facial Coverings and Non-Congregating

Facial coverings and masks

According to the order, masks must be worn in any indoor location that is not a residence, and outdoors when a distance of six feet or more from individuals outside the household cannot be consistently maintained. A mask or face covering is defined as “any material covering an individual’s nose, mouth, and chin.” There are listed exceptions to the requirement to wear a facial covering, including, but not limited to, when or where:

  • “The individual is alone in an enclosed space, such as an office, or in lieu of an enclosed space, the individual is separated by at least six feet in all directions from all other individuals, and in either case the space is not intended for use or access by the public;”
  • Employees, in an industrial or manufacturing facility, “are separated by at least six feet in all directions, or by a barrier in a manufacturing line or work area;”
  • The individual suffers from “[a] medical condition including those with respiratory conditions that restrict breathing, mental health conditions, or disability contraindicates the wearing of a facial covering;”
  • The individual is a child under age 10;
  • “The individual is communicating or seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing-impaired or has another disability, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication;”
  • Facial coverings are in violation of “documented industry standards” or “a business’s documented safety policies;” or
  • “Facial coverings are prohibited by law or regulation.”

Gatherings

The order states that “[i]ndividuals must avoid gathering in groups and attempt at all times to maintain social distancing.” Specifically, the order advises the following about gatherings:

  • Groups should be limited to “no more than [10] individuals that [are] separated from other groups by at least six feet.”
  • Individuals “should perform a daily health assessment and stay home” if they are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19.

Social distancing

The order contains “Social Distancing Requirements” including:

  • “[M]aintaining at least six-foot social distancing from other individuals;”
  • “[W]ashing hands with soap and water for at least [20] seconds as frequently as possible or using hand sanitizer;”
  • “[C]overing coughs or sneezes (into the sleeve or elbow, not hands)” and
  • “[R]egularly cleaning high-touch surfaces, and not shaking hands.”

In addition, the order requires businesses, “[w]here possible, [to] designate with signage, tape, or by other means six-foot spacing for employees and customers in line to maintain appropriate distance.” Businesses must also “[h]ave hand sanitizer and sanitizing products readily available for employees and customers.”

Sanitation

The order provides for hand washing or sanitization upon entering a facility, “us[ing] sanitizer products that meet [the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] “guidelines,” “hav[ing] sanitizer available throughout businesses and organized events for employees and patrons,” and “[r]outine disinfection of high-contact surfaces, desk workstations, restrooms, and equipment.”

Signage

According to the order, “[a]ll businesses and organized gatherings, where possible, shall post clearly visible signage at all entrances to each of their grounds or premises requiring all persons entering to wear a facial covering.” The signage must “state that all persons are required to wear a facial covering and engage in social distancing at all times in or on the grounds or premises.” Sample signage is available on the ODH’s website.

Confirmed cases

The order lists a number of actions to be taken for suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19, including:

  • “Immediately isolate and seek medical care for any individual who develops symptoms.”
  • “Contact the local health district about suspected cases or exposure.”

In addition, the order lists a number of recommended actions to be taken, if possible:

  • “[W]ork with local health department[s] to identify potentially infected or exposed individuals to help facilitate effective contact tracing/notifications.”
  • “[O]nce testing is readily available, test all suspected infections or exposures.”
  • “[F]ollowing testing, contact local health department to initiate appropriate care and tracing.”

Building ventilation and air filtration

According to the order, “buildings accessible to the public shall strive to maximize ventilation, including opening doors and windows. Indoor facilities are expected to employ filtration” using air filters with a “[Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values] 13 [(air filter rating)] or higher at [sic] soon as practicably possible.”

Events with large meetings

According to the order, “[o]rganizers and managers [of a large gathering] should conduct the event in a manner that discourages individuals from standing or sitting close together in buildings or on other parts of the grounds or premises. Where possible, the organizers and managers should provide one-way traffic in buildings or other areas, where doing so will help people maintain social distancing.”

Food and beverages at organized gatherings

At organized gatherings other than in restaurants, bars, and banquet halls, the order recommends “that areas be designated for tables and seating for food and drink consumption.” Further, according to the order, “tables should be six feet apart and seat no more than 10 persons,” and “[f]ood and drink should be consumed while seated.”

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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