Alabama Department of Public Health answers questions regarding stay-at-home order

Coronavirus

A rendering of coronavirus via the CDC.

We’ve received many questions since the statewide stay-at-home order went into effect Saturday, April 4 at 5 p.m.

The Alabama Department of Public Health has released a pair of documents to help individuals and businesses understand the order.

  1. May I do X, Y, or Z?
    The answer depends on the language of the state health order. But before asking whether you can legally do X, Y, or Z, ask yourself, “Is doing X, Y, or Z a good idea?” If doing X, Y, or Z would increase the risk of transmitting COVID-19, try not to do it.
  2. When can I leave my home?
    You may leave home only to do “essential activities” allowed by the order. For example, you can go get “necessary” services or supplies, and you can help other people (or pets!) get these necessary services or supplies. You can also go to work in some circumstances. There are a few other “essential activities” listed in the order; most are addressed in some way on this FAQ.
  3. What are “necessary” supplies or services?
    The order gives several examples of necessary services and supplies—for example, food, pharmaceuticals, gas for your car, and emergency medical care. In each case, the services and
    supplies must be “necessary” for a person’s (or a pet’s) safety, sanitation, or daily routine. But
    remember: Always ask yourself whether going somewhere, even for “necessary” supplies and
    services, would increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission. If you can delay, delay.
  4. Can I go to church? What about weddings and funerals?
    Yes, you may attend these services, but only in limited circumstances. A service can proceed in person if it involves fewer than 10 people spaced at least six
    feet apart from one another. Or, it can be a “drive-in” service where people remain in cars with other people from their household—spaced six feet away from people in other cars. To help prevent COVID-19 transmission, every effort should be made to conduct these services through remote participation.
  5. What can I do outside? Can I play golf or tennis? Can I take my children to the playground? What about boating, hunting, and fishing?
    Generally, you may go outside as long as you stay six feet apart from other people—and never congregate in a group of 10 or more people. But some outside activities are specifically prohibited—including spectator sports, sports that involve interaction
    within 6 feet of another person, activities that require the use of shared equipment, and commercial or public playground equipment. In short, keep exercising and go outside—but avoid activities that increase the risk of spreading COVID-19.
  6. Am I allowed to leave home for work?
    Yes. You may go to work if your workplace is one of the many “essential businesses and operations” listed in the order. Even if your work is not listed as “essential,” you may also go to work if doing so would allow your employer to “maintain” its value (for example, providing security or managing inventory), or if doing so would allow other people to work or shop remotely (including drive-by, curbside, and delivery), or if doing so would require no regular interaction within six feet of another person.
  7. What about cleaning services, remodeling crews, home health workers, and lawn services? In other words, can people come to my home to provide services?
    It depends. As mentioned above in question 6, people can go to work for an “essential” business or if they will have no regular interaction within six feet of another person. So it may be legal to provide some of these services at your home, especially
    lawn services. (“Home health workers and aides” are specifically listed as essential.) But always ask, “is this a good idea”? If you can delay the service, delay it.
  8. May I leave my home to transfer custody of my children? What about visiting family?
    Yes, the order allows people to leave home to travel as required by court order, including specifically the “transportation of children as required by a custody agreement.” You may also visit family, as long as it’s at their place of residence.
  9. When I do leave home, does it matter how I travel? Can I travel by bus? What about airlines?
    The order does not prohibit any method of travel. But remember: You should make every effort to avoid situations that increase the risk of spreading COVID-19.
  1. May I do X, Y, or Z?
    The answer depends on the language of the state health order. But before asking whether you can legally do X, Y, or Z, ask yourself, “Is doing X, Y, or Z a good idea?” If doing X, Y, or Z would increase the risk of transmitting COVID-19, try not to do it.
  2. May I continue operating my business?
    It depends. Under the order, people may leave home for certain work-related reasons, such as to work for one of the many listed “essential business and operations.” People can also leave home to help any business “maintain” its value (e.g., security, payroll, inventory), to enable other people to work or shop remotely (including curbside pickup or delivery), or if their work requires no regular interaction within six feet of another person. Some businesses, however—the entertainment venues, athletic facilities, and “close-contact” service providers listed in paragraph 5—are specifically closed to nonemployees.
  3. How do I know if a business or operation may continue operating as “essential”?
    Please refer to the list of essential businesses and operations in paragraph 2 of the order. Note especially that paragraph 2 incorporates this list of essential infrastructure from the federal government.
  4. What if I operate a store that is not an “essential” business or operation, but the store is not specifically ordered to close—for example, furniture stores, clothing stores, beauty supply stores, or tobacco stores. May I continue operating my store? May I at least offer curbside pickup or delivery?
    See FAQ #2 above, as well as paragraph 1 of the order allowing people to leave home to get “necessary” services and supplies. Taken together, these rules can be boiled down to this: “You can always deliver. And if the customer can leave their house for it, you can meet them at the curb.”
  5. What if my business provides services but is not on the “essential” list and is not specifically closed—for example, pet groomers, home cleaning services, or lawn services? May I continue operating my business?
    It depends. As mentioned above in FAQ #2, people can leave home to work if they will have no regular interaction within six feet of another person. So home cleaning services and lawn services conceivably may continue to operate. If you provide a service that requires customers to leave their homes, remember that they may leave only to get “necessary” services as defined in paragraph 1 of the order.
  6. May I change my business model to become an “essential” business or operation?
    Yes, if your business truly becomes an essential business or operation. But if you try to circumvent the order without fully becoming an essential business or operation, then you are in violation of the order and will face criminal liability.
  7. If I may continue operating my business, what steps must I take to protect customers and employees?
    Essential businesses and operations must take “all reasonable steps” to avoid gatherings of 10 or more persons. They also must take “all reasonable steps” to keep customers and employees six feet apart from one another. Beyond that, “essential retailers”—for example, grocery stores, pharmacies, and “big box” stores—must implement a 50% “emergency maximum occupancy rate,” keep customers six feet apart, and follow sanitation guidelines from public health authorities. For details, see paragraph 6 of the order. And remember: Even if your business may continue operating, you are always encouraged to go above and beyond the requirements of the order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
  8. May I continue operating my childcare center?
    Child day care facilities may continue to operate if 12 or more children are not allowed in a room or other enclosed space at the same time. These facilities are encouraged to use enhanced sanitation and social distancing practices consistent with guidance from the
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alabama Department of Public Health.
  9. If I may continue operating my business, will the government provide my employees “credentials” to allow them to go to and from work?
    No, the government will not be issuing credentials. But you can do so, if you would like to. The decision whether to issue credentials to your employees is left up to you.

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