St. Louis County Updates Re-Opening Orders and Issues New Guidelines

Effective June 29, 2020, the St. Louis County Department of Public Health (“DPH”) amended its Business and Individual Guidelines for Social Distancing and Re-Opening (the “Second Amended Order”). As previewed in our prior Alert, the Second Amended Order eliminates restrictions on intentional gatherings of more than 10 people and increases the capacity limitations to 50% of the occupancy capacity limitations of all business facilities regardless of their square footage or industry sector. In so doing, the Second Amended Order removes prior occupancy capacity limitations that were based upon whether the facility was under or over 10,000 square feet. 

DPH has also published new Guidelines for Businesses Restricted by Capacity Limitations (the “Capacity Guidelines”) that limit the number of individuals in any particular location to 50% or less of the facility’s authorized fire or building code occupancy. The Capacity Guidelines apply to businesses that engage in direct interactions with members of the public and those that provide personal services involving sustained in-person contact. Covered businesses include grocery stores, garden centers, hair salons, gyms, restaurants, bars, public water recreation facilities, community centers, recreation centers, and religious, spiritual and memorial services. The Capacity Guidelines further clarify there are no capacity restrictions for hospitals, urgent care centers, shelters, airports, daycare facilities, and/or professional businesses that do not engage in direct interactions with the public.

Likewise, DPH also updated its Business Offices Operating Guidelines (the “Updated Office Guidelines”) to: (i) increase the number of individuals allowed to gather in a conference room to 50% of the regular capacity of the room, provided that the individuals therein maintain six (6) feet of social distancing and wear face coverings; (ii) eliminate the visitor protocol of non-admission previously applied to non-essential visitors; (iii) recommend businesses establish “special working hours” as opposed to “hours of operation” for individuals at high-risk of experiencing adverse outcomes from COVID-19; (iv) discourage co-workers from taking breaks or eating meals with other co-workers in break areas or kitchenettes unless proper distancing can be maintained; and (v) prohibit employees from bringing outside containers, including reusable bags or boxes, into the facility. 

The Second Amended Order continues to require all businesses to conduct daily screenings of employees and volunteers who work in their facilities for symptoms of COVID-19. In this vein, the Updated Office Guidelines still require covered businesses to ask whether employees or volunteers are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 14 days. In addition, the Updated Office Guidelines further recommend that businesses ask these individuals whether or not they have traveled outside the St. Louis area where social distancing was not practiced. 

Consistent with the prior business office guidelines, the Updated Office Guidelines permit employers to use screening methods in the CDC’s General Business FAQs as a guide including, without limitation, the conducting of temperature checks. In turn, the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to COVID-19 expressly directs businesses and employers to see OSHA COVID-19 guidance for information on how to protect workers from potential COVID-19 exposures in the workplace. On June 18, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) issued Guidance on Returning to Work, which states: “In many workplaces, temperature screening efforts are likely to be most beneficial when conducted at home by individual workers, with employers’ temperature screening plans relying on workers’ self-monitoring and staying home if they have a fever or other signs or symptoms of illness, rather than employers directly measuring temperatures after workers arrive at the work site.” Thus, while temperature screening with a touchless thermometer remains as an available option, businesses may alternatively rely upon employee’s self-reporting and self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms, apparently without violating St. Louis County guidance. 

If you have any questions regarding the Second Amended Order, any of DPH’s Guidelines or any of the interim advice for businesses and employers published by the CDC or OSHA, please contact one of our Labor & Employment attorneys.