St. Martin Parish President Chester R. Cedars
May 13, 2020
Because of the Governor’s announcement on Monday, and since Phase 1 re-opening commences on Friday, I felt it was of extreme import to limit this report solely and exclusively to the Phase 1 re-opening.
PHASE I RE-OPENING
As I reported on April 18, 2020, I have formed a committee to develop minimal protocols/guidance for the Parish businesses as we enter a phased re-opening. The committee consists of our Mayors, SMEDA Director, the Presidents of all of the Chambers of Commerce and HAMA, the Director of Tourism, Superintendent of Schools, and the Director of Emergency Preparedness. The objectives which I defined for the committee are:
- To clearly define the types and classes of businesses which will be allowed to re-open, if any;
- To concisely state the precise restrictions and parameters which will govern those businesses which will re-open; and,
- To ensure that an accurate, cogent message is communicated to ALL of those businesses which may be allowed to re-open.
In short, the committee’s approach was to structure a set of “best practices” for businesses and consumers to follow; i.e., the wearing of proper protective masks whenever possible. Indeed, it is my belief, and the Committee members agreed, that the business community and its customer base are capable of assessing circumstances and making rational decisions on their own accord; hence, our work was never to issues mandates. In connection with the foregoing, I repeat these comments which I previously made:
In the re-opening of the business community, it will be necessary to strike a reasonable balance between public health concerns and economic considerations. Moreover, we want to afford our community the opportunity to engage is business pursuits without the imposition of any unreasonable restrictions. I believe the cross section which this committee represents will be able to meet these objectives.
In connection with the announced entry into a Phase 1 re-entry on May 15, 2020, the Committee by unanimous vote now issues the PRELIMINARY guidance below. However, as a threshold matter, I feel constrained to note that at this point there remains many unanswered questions since there is currently no written executive order from the governor, nor have distinct guidelines been issued by the relevant state agencies relative to the re-opening. Nonetheless, in communication with the Office of State Fire Marshal, it appears that the primary focus is on creating distances between subjects and minimizing interactions. Consequently, I offer the following opinion on some of the most prevalently posed questions:
Does the 25% occupancy limit include both employees and patrons?
My response is that employees are included in the limit only if they have direct interaction with the customers. For example, if a clothing store is opened, and a book keeper or seamstress is housed in an office outside the sales floor, then those sorts of employees should not be counted. Another example would be kitchen employees at a restaurant who do not serve or otherwise interact with the patrons—they should not be counted. This analysis would clearly not offend the spirit of the imposed limitation.
Can a restaurant offer outdoor dining, with table service?
It would appear to me that such would be proper so long as the outdoor area was previously approved for dining by the appropriate agencies. Also, the occupancy would be subject to the 25% limitation. HOWEVER, I WOULD SEE NO PROHIBITION AGAINST TABLES BEING OFFERED FOR OUTDOOR DINING VIA TAKE OUT AND WITHOUT TABLE SERVICE; I.E., WHAT WAS APPROVED TWO WEEKS AGO.
Do patrons dining at one table have to be from the same household?
As I prepare this report, please note again there has been no specific guidance on these issues from either the Governor or the Office of State Fire Marshal. My responses are premised upon my application of what has been published and my governmental and legal experience. As the committee recommends on several occasions in our report, I urge all businesses to register with https://opensafely.la.gov/ which will give each specific business guidance peculiar to its trade. My responses set forth above could be either confirmed or discounted upon the issuance of any specific restrictions promulgated by the proper authority.
COMMITTEE REPORT/SUGGESTED PROTOCOL
These recommendations have been prepared by a committee appointed by Parish President Chester Cedars. The Committee consists of all of the Mayors in the Parish, leaders/representatives of all business chambers, the Parish Director of Tourism, the Director of the St. Martin Economic Development Authority, the Director of the Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness, and the Superintendent of Schools for St. Martin Parish. In drafting these protocols, the Committee has considered the White House guidelines which are premised upon recommendations of the Center for Disease Control, the guidance and recommendation of the Louisiana Department of Health, Office of State Fire Marshal, and other state regulatory agencies, pertinent Executive Orders of Governor John Bel Edwards, and general concerns of the business community of St. Martin Parish.
The declared objective of the Committee is to assist in the re-opening of those businesses which have been closed pursuant to the previous Executive Orders of the Governor including, but not limited to, Executive Orders 27 JBE 2020, 30 JBE 2020, 33 JBE 2020, 41 JBE 2020, and 52 JBE 2020. In particular, President Cedars wanted to be assured that a uniform, cogent, and easily understood message was imparted to the ENTIRE business community relative to what businesses were being allowed to be re-opened and under what restrictions and parameters.
This Guidance focuses upon four (4) distinct areas:
1. An identification of what businesses may remain open, which previously closed businesses are now being allowed to re-opened, and what establishments must remain closed;
2. The conditions, parameters, and/or restrictions imposed on each class of business which are being re-opened or allowed to remain open;
3. Suggested safety protocols for business patrons; and,
4. Recommended safety protocols for business employees.
Of particular salience is that the suggestions or recommendations are not mandates. President Cedars has stated that unless there are serious issues which develop relative to the re-openings, he has no intention of imposing any restrictions in excess of those set by the Governor’s proclamations. Both he and the Committee have the utmost confidence in our community to adopt commonsensical, effective practices that will re-establish our businesses without compromise to public health.
SUBSTANCE OF PHASE ONE
On the afternoon of May 11, 2020, Governor John Bel Edwards announced that Louisiana will now move into a Phase 1 re-opening commencing Friday, May 15, 2020. This means that many of the restrictions previously imposed by Executive Orders 33 JBE 2020, 41 JBE 2020, and 52 JBE 2020, (commonly referred to as Stay At Home Orders) will be removed. Thus, several-but not ALL- of the previously closed businesses will be allowed to re-open pursuant to several restrictions. To afford all of the affected businesses an opportunity to commence preparations, the following PRELIMINARY GUIDANCE is offered. However, please note the following observations:
A. This abstract is a preliminary analysis of the Governor’s actions. It is premised upon a review of his comments at the announcement, a study of the exhibits he referenced, the Phase I guidance from the White House/ CDC, and an evaluation of his previous Stay At Home Orders.
B. The Governor HAS NOT yet prepared a written Executive Order setting forth the details of his announcement. In fact, he has advised that a written order will not be forthcoming until Thursday.
C. The dictates/conditions/restrictions of the upcoming proclamation as regards the re-opening of businesses will be supplemented by guidance from several state agencies including but not limited to the Office of State Fire Marshal, the La. Department of Health, the La. Racing Commission, and the La. Gaming Board. Therefore, it is highly recommended that any business seeking to re-open register with the State Fire Marshal at https://opensafely.la.gov/. This site will transmit guidance specific to the business being re-opened.
Under the upcoming Phase 1 re-opening, there will now be, effectively, three general classifications of businesses. An outline of those categories are as follows:
I. Business which may remain open without restrictions-generally deemed “Essential”
- Medical Facilities
- Mental Health Facilities
- Grocery Stores
- Gasoline vendors
- Farm Workers
- First Responders
- Those supporting or maintaining essential public works
- Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers relative to the essential operation of residences
- Hardware stores and construction material outlets
Note: This list is merely illustrative. A more comprehensive list is set forth in the guidelines of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to which the prior Stay At Home Orders have referred.
II. Businesses which must remain closed
- Bars and Lounges that do not have a food service certificate
- Tattoo Parlors
- Massage Parlors
- Places of public amusements which include: amusement rides, carnivals, amusement parks, trampoline parks, arcades, adult entertainment venues, and “other similar businesses”-See Section 2(B)(1)(a) of 52 JBE 2020
- Interior stores in a shopping mall; however, such ventures may offer goods for sale to the public for curbside delivery only.
III. ALL BUSINESS NOT IDENTIFIED IN NUMBERS I AND II ABOVE
- Any business not identified in Section I and II above may remain open or re-open under the conditions/restrictions identified herein. This includes businesses/activities heretofore ordered closed or prohibited by the previous Executive Orders of the Governor including 33 JBE 2020, 41 JBE 2020, and 52 JBE 2020
- Restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops for indoor dining and table services at 25% of the fire marshal occupancy limit; outdoor dining permitted without table service if social distancing is practiced
- Churches for INSIDE SERVICES at 25% of the fire marshal occupancy limit
- Barber shops and hair salons at 25% of the fire marshal occupancy limit and social distancing
- Nail salons at 25% of the fire marshal occupancy limit and social distancing
- Indoor funeral services at 25% of the fire marshal occupancy limit
- Outdoor funeral services without crowd size limitations if social distancing is practiced
- Bars and lounges that hold state food service certificates may offer take-out and delivery of food and alcohol and offer indoor services 25% of fire marshal occupancy limit; no onsite consumption will be allowed if not seated at State Fire Marshal approved seating
- Gyms and fitness centers at 25% of the fire marshal occupancy limit and pursuant to guidance from the La. Department of Health and State Fire Marshal
- Anchor stores at a mall if the stores have exterior doors accessible by the public, subject to at 25% of the fire marshal occupancy limit
- Indoor stores at malls may continue to offer goods for sale to the public for curbside delivery
- Museums at 25% of the fire marshal occupancy limit provided no organized tours are allowed
- Racetracks may be opened without spectators provided the La. Racing Commission approves
- Zoos may be open to the public at 25% of the fire marshal occupancy limit provided there are no organized tours and no tactile exhibits
- Aquariums at 25% of the fire marshal occupancy limit provided no organized tours and no tactile exhibits are offered
- Casinos and video poker at 25% of the fire marshal occupancy limit and pursuant to guidance from the La. Gaming Board
- Movie theaters at 25% of the fire marshal occupancy limit and pursuant to guidance forthcoming on social distancing
- Indoor weddings at 25% of the fire marshal occupancy limit
- Outdoor weddings without crowd size limitations if social distancing is practiced
- Youth baseball camps and summer camps with no sleepovers-social distancing is required
- Youth, non-contact sporting events are allowed with social distancing required for spectators
The reader is again admonished that this abstract is for advance guidance and planning and should not be a substitute for the actual language of the upcoming Executive Order or any guidance forthcoming by a regulatory agency of the State including, but not limited to the Office of State Fire Marshal, La. Department of Health, the State Racing Commission, or the State Gaming Board.
Moreover, it is again recommended that any business specified herein register with the Office of State Fire Marshal at https://opensafely.la.gov/. No information will be obtained which has not previously been provided as part of a business licensure.
It should be noted that the 10-person gathering limitation will no longer be in effect as of Friday, May 15, 2020.
Despite the relaxation of previously imposed restrictions, any person in a high- risk category is strongly urged to consider whether to avail himself or herself of these revisions. Furthermore, the wearing of face coverings/masks remains recommended. All employees working with the public shall be required to wear masks.
CONDITIONS/RESTRICTIONS IMPOSED BY GOVERNOR
The previous section of this outline describes many, but not all, of the restrictions which have been imposed by the Governor. An additional restriction is that ALL BUSINESSES SHALL REQUIRE ANY EMPLOYEE HAVING INTERACTION OR CONTACT WITH THE PUBLIC WEAR A MASK OR A FACE COVERING.
Restrictions for specific businesses can be found at https://opensafely.la.gov/.
RECOMMENDED GUIDELINES TO BE FOLLOWED BY PATRONS
The following recommendations are submitted for each business to consider establishing in order to regulate the activities of its patrons. Of course, each business is free, and in fact encouraged, to set any other restrictions it deems appropriate to serve its individual needs and demands. The guidelines set forth herein are intended to protect the business, its employees, other patrons, and the general public.
1. No patron shall be allowed to enter the business premises if experiencing any symptom of COVID-19 including:
b. Dry cough
c. Sore throat
e. Loss of smell or taste
f. Respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath
2. No patron should enter the premises if a household member has tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 14 days or has been tested for COVID-19 and is awaiting test results.
3. A notice should be prominently posted that the business reserves the right to require that all patrons, upon entering the premises, have their temperature checked to assure the absence of any fever. The temperature threshold is 100.4/F or 38/C.
4. Upon entering the premises all patrons must use hand sanitizers which should be made available at the entrance of the premises.
5. While on the business premises, all patrons must:
a. Practice social distancing
b. Wash hands or frequently use hand sanitizers especially after touching frequently used items or surfaces such as restroom facilities, door handles, and similar items.
c. Avoid touching of the face.
d. Sneeze or cough into a tissue, or the inside of the elbow if no mask or other face covering is worn.
e. Wear a mask or other face covering when and to the extent it is feasible.
6. The following class of persons should be warned of the enhanced effects of COVID-19 and advised of any alternative services which the business may offer such as, but not limited to, drive thru, home delivery, or curbside deliveries: those over the age of 60 years; individuals with a compromised immune system; and patrons who are under treatment for chronic hypertension, diabetes, or kidney disease. As such, the posting of signage to that effect is recommended.
It is believed that measures such as these will send a strong message that the business is serious about not only serving, but also protecting, its patrons and employees. Indeed, such a message may well encourage patronage, giving potential customers a sense of security which many people need today.
RECOMMENDED GUIDELINES FOR EMPLOYEES
These recommendations are designed to encourage all employees to return to work with the assurance that steps have been adopted to provide adequate protection for them and their families. As with the guidelines for patrons, these suggestions are a testimony of the business’s commitment to provide safe, secure premises for all concerned.
1. No employee shall report to work if experiencing any symptom of COVID-19 including:
b. Dry cough
c. Sore throat
e. Loss of smell or taste
f. Respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath.
2. No employee shall report to work if a household member has tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 14 days of the return to work date or has been tested for COVID-19 and is awaiting test results.
3. No employee who has exhibited any of the symptoms described in Section 2 above shall return to work until he or she is symptom free for 48 hours without the use of fever-reducing (e.g. aspirin) or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants). Moreover, in such instances the business reserves the right to condition the employee’s return to work upon a negative COVID-19 test or the medical clearance of a physician.
4. An employee will not be compelled to work if a member of what has been deemed a high-risk category for COVID-19 which includes:
a. Over the age of 60 years
b. A compromised immune system for any reason
c. Under treatment for chronic hypertension, diabetes, and kidney disease.
5. Upon reporting to work, all employees will be expected to have their temperature checked to assure the absence of any fever. The temperature threshold is 100.4/F or 38/C.
6. While at work, all employees shall
a. Practice social distancing when in common areas such as a break room
b. Wash hands or use hand sanitizers especially after touching frequently used items or surfaces such as restroom facilities
c. Avoid touching of the face
d. Sneeze or cough into a tissue, or the inside of the elbow if a mask or other face covering cannot be worn.
7. Employees must wear masks or protective face coverings at all times. Gloves may be worn by employees when feasible; however, they should be changed frequently and must be changed after the use of any disinfectant.
8. At the beginning AND/OR at the end of the workday, all work areas of each employee will be disinfected.
9. After servicing a patron or patrons, the service area will be cleaned using a disinfectant; i.e., a conference table or restaurant table.
10. Protective shields separating employees and patrons should be installed by the business owners where practical, and utilized by both employees and patrons.
These guidelines and suggestions are intended to supplement and not supplant the mandatory restrictions imposed by the Governor in any active Executive Order issued by him. Moreover, they are not intended to be a delineation of exclusive measures which a business may establish in its re-opening and everyday operations.
IT IS RECOMMENDED THAT ANY MEASURES ADOPTED BE POSTED ON THE BUSINESS PREMISES IN ORDER TO DEMONSTRATE THE BUSINESS’S COMMITMENT TO RE-OPEN WITHOUT COMPROMISE TO PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY.