Seeing that the COVID-19 pandemic is showing little to no signs of slowing down, national and state governments have begun imposing measures to curtail the spread of the virus. One such order is the shelter-in-place. These orders are usually given in extremely dangerous situations such as mass shootings or chemical spills. But with frequent spikes in the COVID-19 cases, the government has managed to compel the citizens to stay at their homes to contain the virus. Only emergency travel is permitted.
What exactly does this kind of order entail? Are you obligated to comply with the imposition? Read on to know everything about the shelter-in-place order and your position in the whole scheme of things.
Shelter in place is an order for the citizens to stay at their homes and not venture outdoors unless it's an emergency or for state-sanctioned purposes. For instance, some states permitted people to travel to buy groceries while enforcing shelter in place.
A few things were included in the list of "essential activities" permitted when the shelter in place was enforced. If there are violations of the rule, the offender might be punished, ranging from a mere fine to imprisonment, or both.
Different states have various prohibitions as a part of their shelter-in-place order, depending upon the severity of the situation and precise reason for imposing the order in the first place. For instance, people were prohibited from venturing outside in the Bay Area. Although, there were a few exceptions in place, labeled "emergency activities." But vulnerable people, such as minors, elderly citizens, or people with underlying medical conditions (who are at a huge risk of contracting the virus) or disabilities, could be asked not to go out at all.
People were banned from going to restaurants, bars, cafes, and other recreational establishments such as gyms, movie theaters, nightclubs, and more. Driving, walking, running, or biking on roads are prohibited unless the travel is for the exceptional activities that the order does not cover. Some of the exemptions include traveling to purchase medical supplies, going out for a doctor's appointment, getting groceries, and suchlike. In the cases of some individuals, going to work is also considered an essential activity, and thus, these people won't be required to comply with the law.
In a standard situation, you would indeed be required to comply with the rules laid forth by the government and not engage in activities or places where the shelter-in-place order has put a temporary ban on. In case of violation, you would be penalized, either with a fine, jail time or both, depending upon the severity of your offense and if it was a repeated one. However, it should be noted that the list of prohibitions could differ from state to state.
For instance, in Alaska, the shelter-in-place order included a prohibition on all kinds of travel, except for emergency services or to go outside to get some fresh air, provided that you don't come in contact with another person. This last provision is not granted to the people of most of the other states.
Similarly, in Arizona, the order included establishments like hair salons and golf courses as a part of the essential businesses, which invited much condemnation from health experts, who believed that it wouldn't be possible to provide grooming services without compromising with the health safety standards.
In states like Connecticut, people are only allowed outside for essentials such as obtaining food and healthcare. Even for essentials, the state has limited how large of a gathering can go outside at once, with public transport being severely limited.
There are numerous more variations in the orders of each state. It's best to read through the official order of your state and see what you're allowed to do and what not. In an everyday situation, you would be required to comply with the order. Otherwise, you could risk facing action against yourself. This is unless you're exempted from following any of the rules.
Emergency Alert System (EAS)
The Emergency Alert System implemented by the Federal Communications Commission is a communication system that alerts the general public about any disaster that would enforce a shelter-in-place order. The system allows the president to warn the people of an impending disaster during a national emergency within 10 minutes of it. From broadcasters to cable television systems and satellite digital audio radio service providers, among a few more are expected to be a part of the communications network to ensure that the president's word reaches as far as possible, alerting as many citizens as possible about the disaster.
If a shelter-in-place order becomes imperative, the EAS would issue the disaster code and communicate the emergency via the system. The citizens of the United States have been warned of many disasters through this system over the years.
What Is an Essential Business?
To contain the spread of the COVID-19, states enforced lockdowns and allowed only a select few essential businesses to operate. Traveling to and fro these establishments is permitted under certain circumstances. The categorization of essential services and non-essential services is different in each state. So it's best to review the official order of your state government and see what services you would be allowed to avail of under the essentials category.
Although, some establishments are allowed to operate in all or most states. For instance, everybody is allowed to use hospital services and travel to pharmacies to obtain medical supplies. You could go out to shop for groceries as well, although the officials would advise you to have the groceries delivered to your home if that's an option. Gas stations, public utilities, communications, and IT are some more services allowed to operate during statewide shelter-in-place order.
Non-essential business employers will be required to ask their employees to work from home so that the travel would remain minimal and containable. There could be curfews in place, too, during which it's likely that using even otherwise essential service would be prohibited. To make sure, do review the order of your state and see if you are exempted from the rules in any way. If not, you'd have to comply with the provisions.
COVID-19 rendered countless people unemployed due to the global economic downturn, and even more of them became financially destabilized. This made it tricky for a large portion of the populace to keep up with the ever-piling bills, including the rent. While the state and federal governments took some measures to protect tenants from being evicted in the aftermath of COVID-19, many of them have been withdrawn.
Thankfully, there are still some emergency bans in place which could help you out if you find yourself unable to pay your rent because of COVID-19. Read on to know what you can do to remove your landlord off your back and buy yourself some time to gather the money.
As we mentioned, the state and federal governments imposed certain emergency bans that protected tenants from abrupt evictions on delayed payment of rent. It's likely that your region of residence still has certain moratoriums on eviction in place, which you can take advantage of to buy yourself some time. Although, it should be noted that these regulations may not exempt you from the penalty fee that the landlord may impose on you for paying the rent late, especially if it was explicitly mentioned on the lease you signed.
Also, it's important to keep in mind that as soon as the moratorium ends, your landlord may be well within their right to file a notice of eviction for all the unpaid rent. So the regulations should not be taken for granted, and all the efforts must be made to keep up with the pending rents each month as much as possible to stay afloat.
Your lease would likely consist of a clause that speaks of an early end to the tenancy if you're going through some hardship and cannot pay the rent due to financial distress. COVID-19 is an apt reason to take advantage of the clause to wriggle yourself out of this tough situation. Until you find yourself financially stable again, you could move to a cheaper place without having to pay the penalty, in some cases.
To check whether you can use this clause or not, review your lease closely. A word of warning, though, keep other references under your belt while you go apartment hunting. Your landlord might be unwilling to give you a good recommendation with you using the hardship clause. You might need other tools to win the favor of your next prospective landlord.
It's no secret that the common people took the brunt of the COVID-19 situation and the economic downturn it led to. If you're lucky enough, your landlord might be willing to hear your case and strike an agreement with you.
You could ask your landlord to give you some relief in the rent payment, in any way possible, especially if you're out of a job now but are hoping to find a new one soon. You could choose any of the following arrangements or come up with your own that serves both you and your landlord.
Be sure to take it down in writing whatever agreement you come to with your landlord. Just your or your landlord's word won't hold water in court.
If everything else fails, you could probe into some other options that you can use for temporary relief. Here are some options that are worth looking into.
There are some state and national rental assistance programs that you could take advantage of. Emergency Rental Assistance Program is one such scheme that could help you out. You can check whether or not you qualify for the scheme and work your way from there. Do some research and see if there are any other schemes you could use, perhaps on the local or state level.
You could try gathering money from other sources such as unemployment compensation benefits to make up for the rent if you lost your job due to the pandemic. If you ran a small business and were forced to halt your operations to the economic downturn, you could check the Small Business Association loan terms. See if you're eligible for this kind of loan and could use the financial assistance from the scheme.
If everything else is out of the question, you would need to manage your funds more carefully to save for rent and see if your landlord can be a bit flexible with the rent till the time you're back on your feet again.
While businesses have finally decided to open their doors to the employees again, the looming threat of coronavirus is still there. This brings us to the critical challenge that employers are now facing, the danger of being sued by employees if they contract the virus in the workplace. Even with all the safety measures in place, the risk of covid spread can never be eliminated. With this in mind, many employers have sought to have their employees sign a COVID-19 liability waiver before resuming work.
As an employee, it's only natural for you to feel alarmed, being asked to sign a document that would put no obligation on the employer to keep you safe from infection hazards within the work premises. Read on to know everything about the COVID-19 liability waiver and whether an employer can enforce it in a workplace.
The COVID-19 liability waiver is an agreement per which the signee forfeits any right to sue their employer if they contract coronavirus in the workplace. Usually, liability waivers are signed between health clubs and members to ensure they don't get roped into a lawsuit for any injuries that any member suffers on the property. The same principles apply here. Once an employee signs a COVID-19 liability waiver, they would lose the right to sue their employer if they get infected with the virus in the workplace.
In the wake of COVID and the subsequent reopening of offices, the state and federal governments issued certain guidelines for employers to follow to keep the premises safe and disinfected for the employees' return. This is in addition to the standard safety protocols that the Federal Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) Act has laid forth. Some states have enforced other laws to protect employees from potential occupational hazards and diseases. However, with the COVID-19 waivers, the employers could escape responsibility if their employees get infected due to unsafe working conditioning.
But since workers' compensation claims cannot be waivered, and with some states considering including COVID-19 as an occupational disease against which damages could be recovered, employees could find some relief there. California is one such state that has made this disease compensable for now, provided that the employees meet certain conditions before filing for the claim. Wisconsin could also find itself on the same list.
The enforceability of COVID-19 waivers differs from state to state. Certain states are reluctant to the idea of enforcing covid liability waivers in the workplace because of the leverage that employers would get over their workers from this order. With states like Virginia and Louisiana unwilling to enforce even personal injury liability waivers, save for a few exceptional cases, it's unlikely that COVID-19, given that it is highly infectious and contagious, would be an exception to this in these states. Other states would probably follow in the same footsteps.
The only difficulty is, even if you weren't asked to sign the waiver, there is no guarantee that you would be able to recover damages for your illness. One of the prime reasons for this is that it would be difficult to prove that you got infected in the workplace, what with the massive spread of the virus, both in professional, personal, and social spaces.
So the first challenge you would face is to prove that it was in your office that you caught the infection. Next, you would have to prove that the reason you got infected was due to the oversight of your employer when it came to putting safety measures against the spread of the virus in place. Even if the employer puts in all the effort through all the guidelines and directives of the government in terms of workplace standard operating procedures, the employer won't be able to guarantee the safety of every single employee, considering just how contagious the disease is. If you choose to file a lawsuit against the employer, consider it an uphill battle.
Employers may try to save their skin by making their employees sign the COVID-19 waiver, but it could be counterproductive for several reasons. For one, the employee might lose their faith in the employee, seeing how their employer is more concerned about their economic interests than the health of their workers. By extension, this would make certain employees reluctant to come back to work and rejoin, fearing that the employer could become lax about the COVID-19 safety protocol. Not only would the employer lose face in front of the employees, but it would also reflect poorly on the company and its organizational values.
Some companies are only enforcing waivers for those employees who are choosing to work from the office, even though they are not asked to join the office just yet by the employer. This way, the employee resumes in-office work knowing the risks involved and their employer's unwillingness.
In the wake of the COVID-19, government authorities put several safety measures in place to keep the spread of the coronavirus in check. Workplaces were instructed with a new standard operating procedure to control the spread of the virus and to get back to some semblance of normalcy.
Through this, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) gives employers the go-ahead to check the employees' temperatures as and when they see fit. Several offices quickly adopted the revised SOP and implemented the same to contain the virus as best they could. So, what would happen if your employer indeed found your temperature high, possibly indicating a glaring symptom of the virus? Read on to know this and more.
One of the requirements of workplace SOP post-COVID had been the regular check of temperatures of employees and other office staffers alike to separate the ones with symptoms of COVID from the ones with none. This was put in place to ensure that people with symptoms don't transmit the virus to others, essentially turning the office into a red zone. Therefore, chances are your employer would check your temperature every day to be on the safe side.
What happens if your temperature is dangerously high, which is a telling symptom of COVID? Your employer would indeed send you back home. Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has explicitly recommended that people with COVID symptoms need to be sent home, so they don't end up infecting others in the workplace, your employer would raise the alarm at a high temperature and ask you to take some time off work.
However, many things need to be kept in mind as well. For instance, just because your high temperature doesn't mean that you have COVID. Do get yourself tested if that happens to be 100% sure. Alternatively, some COVID-infected people don't contact a fever. So, the high temperature could only be telling one part of the story.
If your test comes back positive, it's best to take time off at work. There are various programs put in place to protect the interest of employees if they are unable to work because of COVID-19 symptoms.
As per the Cal/OSHA's Emergency Temporary Standards, employers need to maintain your earnings, in all forms, and other benefits that you enjoy at your workplace, including your seniority and job status, among other things, if they return you home for showcasing signs of COVID, and advise you to isolate yourself for a given period. This privilege only extends if you cannot prevent the spread of the virus and keep the transmission low. Any employer who infringes this rule shall be punishable by law, and you can exercise this right of yours by connecting with the concerned authority.
If an employer finds one of the employees displaying symptoms of COVID-19, they are in their full right to separate such employees from healthy ones. Although, as per the CDC, it shouldn't be mandatory for the employees to provide the employer with their COVID-19 test result, or the note from their health professional, as the hospitals could be too overwhelmed with the caseloads to provide such documents.
Alternatively, if the employer has reasons to believe that their employee was exposed to COVID but isn't showing any symptoms, yet again they can ask them to isolate themselves for around two weeks.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended some safety measures to all employees to ensure that they don't have to face the eventuality of halting their work to recover from COVID.
Here are the recommendations are given by the authority that you could follow to protect yourself from unnecessary trouble:
Here are some safety measures uniquely designed for workplace protection: