Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont issued Executive Order No. 7H (the “Stay Safe, Stay Home Order”) directing that all non-essential businesses and not-for-profit entities operating in the state prohibit in-person operations at their places of businesses, effective at 8:00 p.m. on March 23, 2020. The Stay Safe, Stay Home Order—which does not prohibit non-essential businesses from continuing activities conducted off-site (e.g., a customer’s home) or by telecommuting or working from home—will remain in effect through April 22, 2020 unless earlier modified, extended, or terminated by Governor Lamont. The Stay Safe, Stay Home Order further requires all businesses and not-for-profit entities in the state to utilize, to the maximum extent possible, any telecommuting or work-from-home procedures that they can safely employ.
The Stay Safe, Stay Home Order authorizes the Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development (“DECD”) to provide legally binding guidance about which businesses are deemed “essential” and, thus, not subject to the in-person restrictions. The DECD’s guidance can be found here. For purposes of the Stay Safe, Stay Home Order, the DECD deems “essential business” to include:
- Essential workers in the 16 Critical Infrastructure Sectors identified by the Department of Homeland Security under the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (“CISA”).
- Essential healthcare and related operations such as hospitals, pharmacies, nursing homes, medical supplies (producers, manufacturers, and distributors), biotechnology therapies, consumer health products, health care plans and health care data, medical marijuana dispensaries and producers, and animal health providers.
- Essential infrastructure such as airports/airlines, hotels, commercial trucking, transportation infrastructure (including bus, rail, for-hire vehicles and vehicle rentals, and garages), utilities, telecommunications and data centers.
- All manufacturing and corresponding supply chains, including aerospace, agriculture, and related support businesses.
- Essential retail, including convenience stores, gas stations, grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, pet stores, gun and ammunition stores, liquor/package stores and manufacturer permittees, big-box stores or wholesale clubs (if they also sell groceries, consumer health products, or operate a pharmacy), and stores that sell appliances, electronics, computers, and telecom equipment.
- Essential food and agriculture, including farms and farmer’s markets, food productions (manufacturing, processing, storage, and distribution), nurseries, garden centers, agriculture supply stores, and restaurants and bars that serve food (take-out or delivery services only).
- Essential services, including accounting and payroll, building cleaning and maintenance, childcare services, critical operations support for financial institutions, financial advisors, financial institutions, insurance companies, legal and accounting services, mail and shipping services, news and media, real estate transactions and related services (residential leasing and renting), religious services (but must be limited to 50 people), storage for essential businesses, trash and recycling, and warehouse/distribution shipping and fulfillment.
- Providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations, including food banks, homeless shelters, congregate care facilities, human services providers whose function includes the direct care of patients in state-licensed or funded voluntary programs, the care, protection, custody and oversight of individuals both in the community and in state-licensed residential facilities, those operating community shelters and other critical human services agencies providing direct care or support social service agencies.
- Construction, including both commercial and residential general construction, all skilled trades such as electricians, HVAC, and plumbers, constructions firms and professions for essential infrastructure or emergency repair or safety responses, and construction support activities such as planning, engineering, design, and bridge inspection.
- Services necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operations of all residences and other buildings (including services necessary to secure and maintain non-essential workplaces), including building cleaners and janitors, building code enforcement, disinfection, doormen, emergency management and response, fire prevention and response, general maintenance, home-related services including real estate transactions, closings, appraisals, and moving services, landscaping services, law enforcement, outdoor maintenance, pest control services, security and maintenance, and state marshals.
- Vendors that provide essential services or products, including logistics and technology support, child care, and services needed to ensure the continuing operation of government agencies and provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public. This specifically includes billboard leasing and maintenance, child care services, essential government services, government owned or leased buildings, information technology and information security, logistics and technology support.
- Defense and national security-related business and operations supporting the U.S. Government or a contractor to the US government.
In Executive Order No. 7J, Governor Lamont has clarified that the Stay Safe, Stay Home Order allows (1) “non-essential retailers to be staffed on site, provided that they only offer remote ordering (e.g., phone, internet, mail, dropbox) and delivery or curb-side pick-up”; and (2) “non-essential businesses and not-for-profit entities to allow staff or third parties on site to the minimum extent necessary to provide security, maintenance and receipt of mail and packages, or other services deemed essential.”
Any business whose function is not listed above but believes that it is essential, or provides essential services or functions, may submit an application to the DECD requesting that it be designated an essential business. The DECD has the authority to grant such a request if it determines that “it is in the best interest of the state to have the workforce continue at full capacity to properly respond to this emergency.” Requests by businesses to be designated an essential business should only be made if they are NOT covered by the DECD’s guidance. Further, “any business that only has a single occupant/employee (e.g., attendant) is deemed exempt” and need not submit such a request. The DECD application form can be found here.
In additional to the Stay Home, Stay Safe Order and related DECD guidance, Governor Lamont has adopted other executive orders designed to encourage mitigation strategies and slow down transmission of COVID-19 that will impact businesses in this state. For instance, in Executive Order No. 7I, Governor Lamont suspended the requirements for corporations to hold shareholder meetings in-person and, instead, authorized virtual shareholder meetings if certain conditions and notice requirements are satisfied. Additionally, in Executive Order No. 7K, Governor Lamont modified state laws and regulations to allow remote notarization under certain conditions, including recording and live presentation of identification.
Navigating compliance with these orders, including determinations as to whether your business qualifies, whether an exemption should be requested, and what instructions should be given to employees, requires careful thought. Our COVID-19 Task Force stands ready to provide consultation and assistance.