St. Martin Parish President Chester R. Cedars
May 15, 2020
4:45 P.M.

Last night, the Governor published his latest Executive Order (58 JBE 2020) which allows the State of Louisiana to enter Phase One of the re-opening of our community. Although posts have been prepared in association with the Governor’s announcement on May 11, 2020, no proclamation was provided until last night. Therefore, the following is an abstract of that order which has been prepared after a review of both that declaration and guidelines of the Office of State Fire Marshal. Specific guidance can be found at http://opensafely.la.gov/. Indeed, the reader is advised to consult that website for further and more specific information and data.

FEATURES OF EXECUTIVE ORDER 58 JBE 2020

Thursday night at approximately 8:30 P.M., Governor Edwards released the long awaited executive order which relaxed many of the previously imposed restrictive measures of his prior Stay At Home Orders. Although the bulk of interest generated by this edict addressed the business community, the proclamation contains many other provisions and applies to not only businesses but “organizations” as well none of which should not escape one’s attention. I will attempt to abstract the recently released Executive Order 58 JBE 2020.

I. GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

Section 1(A) reaffirms the Governor’s previous declaration that a “statewide public health emergency” continues to exist in the State of Louisiana. I note with more than passive interest that in making this declaration, the Governor references the La. Health Emergency Powers Act, La. R.S. 29:760, et seq. Enforcement of the mandates of the Order are reserved to GOHSEP (Section 1-B), the Secretary of the Department of Health (Section 1-C), the State Health Officer (Section 1-C), and the “chief law enforcement officer” of any political subdivision (Section 1-D).

As an aside, in my capacity as Parish President, I have previously issued a State of Emergency for St. Martin Parish primarily for FEMA purposes; however, no restrictions have been imposed by my Office beyond those of the State of Louisiana. This will not change absent unforeseen circumstances peculiar to our Parish or municipalities such as a major storm event. Last Monday, we lifted the curfew for our Parish.

II. GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS

Section 2 of the current Executive Order contains what I refer to as aspirational provisions. Specifically, this section reflects strongly worded recommendations which do not constitute any sort of mandate. As such, the Executive Order advises that all individuals SHOULD stay at home as much as possible. Of particular salience is Section 2(B) which states that anyone who is at a high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should “stay at home” unless travel is necessary to:

  • Obtain food or medicine and similar necessary goods
  • Obtain medical care and treatment
  • Going to and from work
  • Going to and from the home of a family member
  • Attending an individual’s place of worship
  • Engaging in an outdoor activity, provided individuals maintain a distance of six feet from one another

Furthermore the proclamation identifies those who are at a high risk as one falling within any of the following categories:

  • Suffering from conditions such as asthma, chronic lung disease, compromised immune system, diabetes, serious heart disease, chronic kidney disease, liver disease;
  • Severe obesity;
  • 65 years or older; and,
  • Anyone living in a nursing home or long-term care facility.

III. ELIMINATION OF GATHERING SIZES

The prior stay at home proclamations of the Governor had a limitation on “public and private gatherings.” The limitation was initially 250 persons (27 JBE 2020) and ultimately reduced to 10 persons (33 JBE 2020, 41 JBE 2020, and 52 JBE 2020). There is no longer any limitation imposed on private gathering; however, as seen in Section V hereof, such is not the case with businesses and organizations. However, there is a declared, specific statement in Section 2-C that “all individuals should avoid groups of any size that do not allow for strict social distancing.”

IV. FACE MASKS

The current Executive Order, 58 JBE 2020, MANDATES that any employee, owner, or member of a business or organization wear a face mask or face covering when having interaction with the public. See Section 2-D. Moreover, many businesses and organization are required to mandate that its patrons or members wear face masks. See Section 2-E.

V. BUSINESSES AND ORGANIZATIONS

Executive Order 58 JBE 2020 supplants all of the prior proclamations of the Governor, specifically Executive Orders 33 JBE 2020, 41 JBE 2020, and 52 JBE 2020, (commonly referred to as Stay at Home Orders). Thus, most-but not ALL-of the previously closed businesses are now allowed to re-open pursuant to several restrictions. Moreover, this proclamation addresses organizations such as civic clubs and social organizations. It is NOT limited to business ventures.

Moreover, all businesses and organizations may receive specific guidance as to the parameters of its re-opening/restrictions by either registering or visiting http://opensafely.la.gov/. THE GUIDANCE AND RESTRICTIONS ARE BUSINESS/ORGANIZATION SPECIFIC. WHAT MAY APPLY TO ONE TYPE OF BUSINESS MAY BE DIFFERENT FOR ANOTHER. Additionally, the dictates/conditions/restrictions imposed upon businesses and organizations are subject to 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. Thus, the import of each business or organization visiting the opensafely website cannot be overstated.

The following is a quick reference point for businesses and organizations. It is not intended to, and should not, supplant the specific measures set forth at http://opensafely.la.gov/.

Pursuant to Executive Order 58 JBE 2020, there are, effectively, three general classifications of businesses and organizations. An outline of those categories are as follows:

A. Section 2(F) of 58 JBE 2020: Businesses which may remain open without restrictions-generally deemed “Essential”

  • Medical Facilities
  • Mental Health Facilities
  • Pharmacies
  • 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
  • Manufacturers
    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.

Unlike in previous orders, this proclamation provides that, “all owners and employees at such businesses SHALL maintain strict social distancing between themselves and members of the public and SHALL WEAR FACE COVERINGS AT ALL TIMES if interacting with the public.”

B. Section 2(E) of 58 JBE 2020-Businesses which must remain closed

  • Bars and Lounges that do not have a LDH food service certificate
  • Tattoo Parlors
  • Massage Parlors
  • Places of public amusements, whether indoor or outdoor, which include locations with amusement rides, carnivals, amusement parks, water parks, trampoline parks, arcades, fairs, pool halls, children’s play centers, playgrounds, theme parks, concert and music halls, adult entertainment venues, bowling alleys, and “other similar businesses.”

Again, should one have any question about what sort of business is embraced by the prohibition, guidance can be secured at http://opensafely.la.gov.

C. ALL BUSINESSES/ORGANIZATIONS NOT IDENTIFIED IN A AND B ABOVE

Any business not identified in Section A and B above may remain open or re-open under conditions/restrictions peculiar to its type or classification. This includes businesses/activities heretofore ordered closed or prohibited by the previous Executive Orders of the Governor including 33 JBE 2020, 42 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 IS permitted WITH or without table service. WAITING AREAS SHALL BE CLOSED, and members of the public should be required to wait outside or in vehicles while exercising social distancing. Common buffet areas are prohibited.
  • Churches for INSIDE SERVICES at 25% of the fire marshal occupancy limit. Lobbies or other areas where the public may be able to congregate shall remain closed. Face masks are required for all employees. Outdoor services may continue under the guidelines previously issued.
  • Barber shops and hair salons at 25% of the fire marshal occupancy limit and social distancing. Waiting areas shall remain closed.
  • Nail salons at 25% of the fire marshal occupancy limit and social distancing with lobbies closed.
  • Bars and lounges that hold a LDH food service certificate 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. All employees and owners must wear face masks and to the extent possible maintain social distancing. Waiting rooms and common areas where persons may congregate shall remain closed. Additional guidance is offered via State Fire Marshal.
  • Shopping malls may re-open pursuant to the maximum occupancy of not more than 25% of the total occupancy established by the fire marshal. All common areas or locations where the public can congregate shall be closed. Face masks worn by employees are required. Before any shopping mall may re-open, the mall shall submit and have an approved re-opening plan for the State Fire Marshal.
  • Casinos, Racetracks, and Video Poker Establishment may open subject to the 25% occupancy limit established by the State Fire Marshal. No more than 50% of gaming positions shall be in use at any one time and all utilized gaming positions shall be at least 6 feet apart for one another with no two adjoining gaming positions in use as the same time. Face masks are to be worn by the employees. Racetracks may be opened without spectators as per an approved plan by the La. Racing Commission.

ALL OTHER BUSINESSES OR ORGANIZATIONS MAY BE OPENED SUBJECT TO THE CONDITIONS OF THE STATE FIRE MARSHAL. Additional restrictions include the 25% occupancy limit, the wearing of face masks, and waiting rooms and common areas remaining closed. Examples of these “all other businesses/organizations include:

  • Zoos provided there are no organized tours and no tactile exhibits;
  • Aquariums provided no organized tours and no tactile exhibits are offered;
  • Movie theaters;
  • Indoor weddings at 25% of the fire marshal occupancy limit;
  • Outdoor weddings without limitation of crowed size;
  • Indoor funerals at 25% of fire marshal established occupancy limit;
  • Outdoor funeral services without limitation of crowd size;
  • Youth baseball camps and summer camps with no sleepovers-social distancing is required; and,
  • Youth, non-contact sporting events are allowed with social distancing required for spectators.

Moreover, it is again recommended that all businesses and organizations, whether or not 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.

VI. 25% TOTAL OCCUPANCY

Executive Order 58 JBE 2020 references as a condition on numerous occasions the requirement of businesses and organizations being subject to a “25% occupancy limit.” On Thursday, May 14, 2020, I participated in a telephonic conference with Butch Browning of the Office of State Fire Marshal relative to the various guidelines and restrictions imposed on the re-opening of the business community. Mr. Browning in direct response to several questions explained this “25% occupancy limit” as follows.

The “25% occupancy limit” is calculated in the following manner. Each type of business or organization has an assigned an “occupant per square foot” number. For example, a restaurant is allowed to re-open with a 60-person per square foot number. Thus, the restaurant should determine its gross square footage and divide it by 60. This will then yield the maximum occupancy for the restaurant during this Phase One re-opening. Thus, if a restaurant has a gross square footage of 3,000, the maximum occupancy would be 50 persons (3,000 divided by 60).

The occupancy limit as calculated above, includes both patrons and employees. Again, using a restaurant as an example, kitchen personnel are included in the occupancy limit; however, the square footage of the kitchen is likewise included in the gross square footage. Simply stated, to calculate gross square footage, one should measure the entire length and width of the building which would include the entire area of the structure (closets, bathrooms, etc.)

Moreover, for restaurants outdoor dining, to determine the occupancy of the outdoor area, one should use the same calculations as set forth above.

Two final observations are in order. First, as alluded to previously, every classification of business enjoys a per person square foot number specific to it. Gyms, for example have a 120 per person square foot assignment while museums have a 110 per person square foot factor. Second, the occupancy limit is only one of the measures or restrictions which may be assigned; for example, a restaurant has a limitation on table sizes (seating capacities) and table spacing.

Because of the complexity of all of this (which one may validly describe as unnecessary complexity), it behooves ALL BUSINESSES AND ORGANIZATIONS to consult or register with http://opensafely.la.gov/ so that up-to-date information about the restrictions can be provided for the business.

Finally, it appears to me that the insertion of the 25% language does nothing but confuse the general public.