Today the Alabama State Health Officer issued a new order. The order makes major changes starting on Monday, May 11. Here is a summary of the highlights:
Effective on May 11:
Non-work-related gatherings: all non-work-related gatherings of any size that cannot maintain a consistent six-foot distance are prohibited. Although this sounds restrictive, really this means that gatherings of more than 10 people (which have been forbidden) are now allowed, so long as distancing is maintained. This will allow for the opening of churches, which is addressed in the attached Guidelines for Places of Worship.
Protections for employees: in the workplace, employers are required to take reasonable steps, where practicable, to:
- maintain 6 feet of separation between employees;
- regularly disinfect frequently used items and services;
- encourage hand washing;
- prevent employees who are sick from coming into contact with others;
- facilitate remote working arrangements; and
- minimize employee travel.
In addition, employers are encouraged to follow the attached Guidelines for Safeguarding All Businesses.
Protection for customers, etc.: all businesses and other establishments open to the public shall take reasonable steps, where practicable, to protect customers and other visitors by:
- maintaining 6 feet of separation; and
- regularly disinfecting frequently used items and surfaces.
Retailers: all retail stores shall comply with the following rules:
- occupancy is limited to no more than 50% of normal occupancy;
- 6 feet distancing must be maintained;
- the store shall take reasonable steps to comply with sanitation guidelines from the CDC and the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Close-contact service providers: service providers like barbershops, hair salons, nail salons, tattoo parlors, and massage therapists, shall comply with the following rules:
- clients and other visitors must maintain distancing of at least 6 feet;
- each employee shall wear a mask or other facial covering that covers the nose and mouth at all times that they are within 6 feet of a client;
- employees shall wash their hands thoroughly immediately before providing services;
- employees are encouraged (and employees providing nail or facial services are required) to wear gloves when providing services and to use a new pair of gloves for each client.
In addition, these providers are encouraged to follow the attached Guidelines for Close Contact Personal Service Businesses.
Athletic facilities: places like fitness centers, gyms, spas, yoga, bar, and spin facilities shall follow the following rules:
- distancing of at least 6 feet shall be maintained;
- occupancy must be limited to 50% of normal occupancy;
- showers, hot tubs, steam rooms, lockers must be closed;
- pools may be open, subject to the distancing rules;
- each employee shall wear a mask or other facial covering that covers the nostrils and mouth while interacting with people.
- No sports are allowed that involve interaction with another person of closer than 6 feet.
- No activities are allowed that require the use of shared equipment.
- No activities are allowed on commercial or public playground equipment.
In addition, these facilities are encouraged to follow the attached Guidelines for Athletic Facilities.
Beaches: beaches are open so long as distancing of at least 6 feet is maintained.
Restaurants, bars, and similar establishments: these facilities shall operate as follows:
- they may continue to offer food for takeout and delivery so long as distancing is maintained;
- they are strongly encouraged to offer online ordering in curbside pickup of food;
- if they offer on-premises consumption of food or drink, they must limit the party size to no more than eight persons at a table and must maintain distance of at least 6 feet between different tables;
- each employee shall wear a mask or other facial covering the covers the nose and mouth at all times while in interaction with guests;
- they must disallow self-service by guests at drink stations, buffets, or salad bars.
In addition, these establishments are encouraged to follow the attached Guidelines for Restaurants and Bars.
Higher-risk businesses and activities: the following businesses are considered to be higher-risk and shall remain closed until further notice:
- bowling alleys
- concert venues
- theaters, auditoriums, and performing arts centers
- tourist attractions
- indoor children’s play areas
- adult entertainment venues
- bingo halls
- venues operated by social clubs
The entire order may be viewed here. The order will remain in effect until 5 PM on May 22, 2020. Prior to that time, a decision will be made whether to extend or relax the order.
In concert with this order, today the governor has entered a couple of new orders. In one of those orders, the governor has purported to give immunity to legal liability for any business that reopens and attempts to follow the above requirements, unless it is shown by clear and convincing evidence that the business caused harm by wanton, reckless, willful, or intentional misconduct. Such a grant of legal immunity seems like a very far stretch of the governor’s authority, if such authority even exists, but it seems apparent that the governor is trying to do all that she can to encourage businesses to reopen so long as they act reasonably in so doing. The immunity order may be viewed here.
We will continue to monitor any new developments and will post updates here.