On March 22, 2020, Governor Mike DeWine announced that Director of the Ohio Department of Health Amy Acton, MD, has signed a Stay at Home Order effective Monday, March 23, 2020 at 11:59 p.m (the Order). Generally, the Order mandates that all Ohio residents stay at home, but it has exceptions for permissible reasons for Ohio residents to leave their residences, such as traveling to provide services as a health care worker in many different capacities.

The Order permits Ohio residents to travel for “Essential Activities” as defined by the Order, which includes, among other things, travel for work where the individual is providing essential products and services at essential business or operations, which includes “Health Care and Public Health Operations.”

Under the Order, “Health Care and Public Health Operations” include, but are not limited to, providing services as a health care worker at:

  • hospitals; clinics; dental offices; pharmacies; public health entities, including those that compile, model, analyze, and communicate public health information; pharmaceutical; pharmacy; medical device and equipment; and biotechnology companies (including operations, research and development, manufacturing, and supply chain); organizations collecting blood, platelets, plasma, and other necessary materials;
  • licensed medical marijuana dispensaries and licensed medical marijuana cultivation centers; obstetricians and gynecologists; eye care centers, including those selling glasses and contact lenses; home health care services providers; mental health and substance use providers; and
  • health care facilities, suppliers and providers of any related and/or ancillary health care services; and entities that transport and dispose of medical materials and remains.

The Order also permits Ohio residents to leave home for “Human Services Operations,” which allows individuals to leave their residence to work or obtain services, including any provider funded by the Ohio Department of Aging, Department of Developmental Disabilities, Department of Health, Department of Job and Family Services, Department of Medicaid, Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, Department of Veterans Services, and Department of Youth Services that is providing services to the public and including state-operated, institutional, or community-based settings providing human services to the public.

Under the Order, “Human Services Operations” includes, but is not limited to the following:

Long-term care facilities; day care centers; day care homes; group day care homes; residential settings; and shelters for adults, seniors, children, and/or people with developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, substance use disorders, and/or mental illness; transitional facilities; home-based settings to provide services to individuals with physical, intellectual, and/or developmental disabilities, seniors, adults, and children; field offices that provide and help determine eligibility for basic needs including food, cash assistance, medical coverage, child care, vocational services, rehabilitation services; developmental centers; adoption agencies; businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged individuals, individuals with physical, intellectual, and/or developmental disabilities, or otherwise needy individuals.

All health care workers who provide “Health Care and Public Health Operations or Human Services Operations, or other activities exempted by the Order, are permitted to leave their residence and travel to their place of employment to provide these services. Additionally, the Order exempts all health care workers defined as, “essential critical infrastructure workers,” under the March 19, 2020, memorandum issued by the United States Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), from the stay-at-home requirements. This memorandum can be accessed here. Our article summarizing this guidance is also available here.

Finally, workers in the health care industry who are needed for health care entities to sustain minimum basic operations are exempt from the Order. “Minimum Basic Operations” are defined as, (a) “The minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of the business’s inventory, preserve the condition of the business’s physical plant and equipment, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits, or for related functions;” and (b) “The minimum necessary activities to facilitate employees of the business being able to continue to work remotely from the residences.”

Even if health care workers and their employers are exempted from the Order due to qualifying under one of the exemptions listed above, all Ohio health care businesses are required to address the following in response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. Allow as many employees as possible to work from home by implementing policies in areas such as teleworking and video conferencing.
  1. Actively encourage sick employees to stay home until they are free of fever (without the use of medication) for at least 72 hours (three full days), symptoms have improved for at least 72 hours, and at least seven days have passed since symptoms first began. Do not require a health care provider's note to validate the illness or return to work of employees sick with acute respiratory illness; health care provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.
  1. Ensure that your sick leave policies are up to date, flexible, and non-punitive to allow sick employees to stay home to care for themselves, children, or other family members. Consider encouraging employees to do a self-assessment each day to check if they have any COVID-19 symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, or shortness of breath).
  1. Separate employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms from other employees and send them home immediately. Restrict their access to the business until they have recovered.
  1. Reinforce key messages (i.e., stay home when sick, use cough and sneeze etiquette, and practice hand hygiene) to all employees and place posters in areas where they are most likely to be seen. Provide protection supplies (e.g.,soap and water, hand sanitizer, tissues, and no-touch disposal receptacles) for use by employees.
  1. Frequently perform enhanced environmental cleaning of commonly touched surfaces (e.g., workstations, countertops, railings, door handles, and doorknobs). Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label. Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces can be wiped down by employees before each use.
  1. Be prepared to change business practices if needed to maintain critical operations (e.g., identify alternative suppliers, prioritize customers, or temporarily suspend some of your operations).

The full Order can be accessed here.