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Staff Writer

Ohio’s stay-at-home order, which went into effect at 11:59 p.m. Monday, stopped short of ordering a full-scale business shutdown, by exempting “essential” workers. However, the rush to decide what’s “essential” has left many workers and employers in a lurch.

The Department of Homeland Security has a seemingly exhaustive list, but it doesn’t seem to be enough to cover every type of businesses out there.

Gov. Mike DeWine is asking everyone to use common sense in interpreting the order, but a quick look at social media — with workers debating the decisions being made by their workplace — shows there’s a lot of panic and chaos.

“If a business is not certain if they can continue operations, they should consult their attorney,” said Findlay Mayor Christina Muryn on Monday.

If an employee has a concern with a business, he or she is advised to first speak with their employer, Muryn said. If an employer is not following COVID-19 protocols, employees can also contact Hancock Public Health by calling 419-424-7105.

The state’s order will remain in place through April 6 and is enforceable by both the local health departments and local law enforcement. Ignoring the order could carry penalties as allowed by Ohio law, but no specific penalties are listed.

Most of the language in the order governs citizens, not businesses.

Ohio residents have been ordered to stay at home and only leave for health and safety, for necessary supplies and services, and for outdoor activity. Playgrounds are closed. Ohioans may also leave home to take care of others, a neighbor, family or friends.

As for the definition of “essential workers,” the list includes: stores that sell groceries and medicine; food, beverages and licensed marijuana production and agriculture; charitable and social services; religious entities; media and First Amendment protected speech.

Also identified in the order are gas stations and businesses needed for transportation; financial and insurance institutions; hardware and supply stores; critical trades; mail and shipping; educational institutions for the purpose of providing distance learning; laundry services; and carryout restaurants.

Businesses that sell supplies needed to work from home can continue to operate, as can suppliers for essential businesses and operations; transportation; home-based care and services; residential facilities and shelters; professional services; critical labor union functions; hotels and motels, and funeral services.

Ohio’s order also cites a list of essential workers issued Thursday by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, referred to as the “CISA List.” The CISA list is very lengthy, and can be viewed online at: https://www.cisa.gov/identifying-critical-infrastructure-during-covid-19.

According the order issued Sunday, all businesses that remain open must be able to provide workers with an environment that adheres to safety precautions for COVID-19, including social distancing.

The order requires businesses and employers to allow as many employees to work from home as possible, and to encourage sick employees to stay home without requiring a medical note. Businesses should also update sick leave policies so they are up to date, flexible and non-punitive.

The order also instructs businesses to separate employees who appear to have symptoms of acute respiratory illness from other employees and send them home immediately. Sick employees should be restricted from returning to work until they have recovered, according to the order.

Employers are also being asked to reinforce messages about good hygiene and provide supplies like soap, water, hand sanitizer and tissues, and increase cleaning and sanitation efforts.

Businesses should also work to identify alternative suppliers, prioritize customers and/or temporarily suspend some operations, according to the order.

The full stay-at-home order can be viewed here: https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/DirectorsOrderStayAtHome.pdf

Grant: 419-427-8412

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Twitter: @ByDeniseGrant