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State of Ohio Orders

Ohio’s Restart Plan

A: At a press conference on April 27, 2020, Ohio Governor Michael DeWine announced plans for non-essential Ohio businesses to begin reopening in the wake of closings prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. Governor DeWine indicated this decision was based on data showing that the various “stay at home” orders and other measures apparently had successfully blunted the potential for an overwhelming impact on the state’s health care system.

A: The plan, known as “Responsible Restart Ohio,” consists of a phased resumption of various business segments, combined with a variety of measures intended to combat the potential for further disease transmission. The plan was designed to continue protecting the health of employees, customers, and their families; support community efforts to control the spread of coronavirus; and lead responsibly in getting Ohio back to work.

A: Elective surgical procedures not involving an overnight stay can resume. Also on that day, dentists and veterinarians can begin providing services.

A: Businesses involved in manufacturing, distribution, and construction can return to work. So too can businesses described as “general office environments.”

A: Consumer, retail, and service business can re-commence operations.

A: Some business are still not authorized to re-open. These include:

  • K-12 schools
  • Child day care facilities
  • Restaurants and bars (carry-out and delivery are still permitted)
  • Hair salons and beauty businesses (including massage therapy)
  • Certain adult day care/support services
  • Entertainment, recreation, and gymnasiums
  • Places of public amusement, including all parades, fairs, festivals, and carnivals
  • Country clubs and social clubs
  • Gambling facilities
  • Swimming pools (other than those serving a single house)
  • Campgrounds and RV parks
  • Aquariums, zoos, and museums
  • Auditoriums, stadiums, and arenas

A: Certain provisions of the prior “stay at home” orders remain in effect, including a continued prohibition on mass gatherings of ten or more people. No decision has been made regarding whether summer camps for school-age children can open.

A: Face coverings for employees and customers/clients are recommended at all times. Employees must undergo a daily health assessment intended to confirm fitness for duty, including taking their temperature, monitoring for fever, and watching for coughing or trouble breathing. Good hygiene must be maintained at all time, including hand washing, sanitizing, and appropriate social distancing. Workplaces must be cleaned and sanitized throughout the work day and at the end of the day or shift. Capacity must be limited at 50% of the fire code in order to promote social distancing. Appointments should be used where necessary to limit the potential for congestion.

A: Additional specific protocols apply based on the particular industry segment in which the employer is involved (complete guidance is available here). Most prominent is the requirement across all industries that a six-foot distance be maintained between individuals; where that is not possible, barriers must be installed. Manufacturers must change shift patterns to reduce the number of shifts, increase factory floor space, and provide for daily disinfection of desks and workspaces. In addition, it is recommended that employers provide a stipend to employees for private transportation to and from the workplace, apparently in an effort to reduce reliance on public transportation.

A: For general office businesses, employers must continue to allow employees to work from home “when possible,” reduce the sharing of work materials, and limit travel as much as possible. Businesses are encouraged to close employee cafeterias and other gathering spaces. No buffets are permitted in employee cafeterias. General office businesses are recommended to have at least three weeks of cleaning supplies on hand.

A: Retail businesses are recommended to provide floor markers that facilitate social distancing, use contact-free payment methods, and increase capacity for delivery and curb-side pickup. They are also required to install hand sanitizers at high-contact locations, and to clean high-touch items such as shopping carts after each use. High-contact surfaces must be cleaned hourly. Self-service food stations and product samples are prohibited.

A: If a COVID-19 infection is detected, five steps must be followed:

  • The business must report the infection to its local health district.
  • The business must help facilitate the local health district’s efforts to engage in contact tracing.
  • The shop/floor must be shut down for deep sanitization if possible.
  • A professional cleaning/sanitization must be completed.
  • The business must consult with the local health department regarding reopening.

A: Governor DeWine noted there was no requirement that individuals wear a face covering when leaving their home. However, he noted that “we recommend it.”

A: Governor Mike DeWine has changed his stance on the mandatory mask requirement that was part of the original plan to restart the state’s economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The mandate of “No mask, no work, no service, no exception,” first announced on April 27, 2020, is no more. According to Governor DeWine, that requirement proved offensive to many Ohioans. Therefore, while he recommends that citizens wear a mask or face covering to limit the potential spread of coronavirus, it will not be required.

A: As of Tuesday morning, April 28, 2020, the recommended protocols posted on the “Responsible Restart Ohio” website changed to “Recommend face coverings for employees and clients/customers.”

A: The Ohio Department of Health further explained on its Twitter account: “Please understand, if you can wear a mask, you should. Wearing a mask helps to protect the most vulnerable among us.”

A: Retail employees will be required to wear masks. Shortly after the Governor ended his press conference on April 28th, the state’s website changed its recommended protocol once again. It now says: “Require face coverings for employees and recommend them for clients/customers at all times.” A press release from the Governor’s office elaborated that a face covering is not required when it contravenes the advice of a healthcare professional or industry best practices, or would violate federal or state laws or regulations.

A: The same press release commented that “individual business owners could still choose to develop a business policy requiring face coverings for customers to enter their facilities.”

A: The other “Responsible Protocols” that were previously announced remain in effect. Employers are to conduct daily health assessments to determine employee fitness for duty. Good hygiene must be maintained at all times, such as hand washing, sanitizing, and social distancing. Workplaces must be sanitized during the work day and at the close of business or shifts. Social distancing is to be accomplished through establishing capacity at 50% of the fire code and, where appropriate, using appointments to limit congestion.

A: Separately, the Governor announced the formation of two working groups that will help devise recommendations for best practices designed to facilitate the reopening of dine-in restaurants, barbershops, and beauty salons.

Ohio Updates Requirements for Mask-Wearing Order

A: In an effort to blunt the recent, rapid upswing in coronavirus infections throughout the State of Ohio, on Friday, November 13, 2020, the Department of Health issued an order updating requirements for the wearing of facial coverings, first issued in July.  The new order places additional mandates on retail establishments that offer goods in person to the public, and is intended effort to enhance compliance with the original mask-wearing order.

A: That order, issued in July, mandated that Ohioans must wear a mask when they are in any non-residential indoor location; or outdoors and not able to maintain six-foot social distancing requirements; and when waiting for, riding, driving, or operating public transportation, including taxis, car service, or ride-sharing services. Exceptions were made for children under age 10, those with medical conditions or disabilities, persons located indoors when separated by at least six feet from all other persons, and when actively engaged in exercise at a gym or other indoor facility.

A: The updated order continues all of the requirements of the July order, including specifically mandating that all persons wear a facial covering when they are “in or on the premises of a Retailer.” It also continues to require compliance with a May 29, 2020 order requiring that retailers adhere to capacity limits to ensure physical separation, provide ready access to hand sanitizer, require routine disinfection of high-contact surfaces, and use one-way directional signage if necessary to achieve physical distancing.

A: Under the new order, retailers also must now post “clearly visible signage” at all entrances, reminding customers of the requirement to wear a facial covering “at all times when in or on the Retail Premises.” The required signage is available to download for free at this link.

A: Retailers “shall ensure compliance with this Order at all locations,” by designating an “on-site compliance officer” at each location who is to “ensure compliance with this Order.” The Order does not specify how the Designated Compliance Officer must do so, but does indicate that retail employees need not place themselves in jeopardy or at risk of harm to ensure customer compliance.


Violations of the order result in immediate closure of the retail premises for up to 24 hours. This is intended to allow any coronavirus droplets to dissipate. Closure orders must be preceded by an initial warning to the retailer. The order places enforcement in the hands of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Retail Compliance Unit, local health departments, and local law enforcement officers, but also encourages citizens observing violations to contact the Ohio Department of Health.

The new order does not apply to businesses that are subject to other specific orders. This includes restaurants, bars, banquet and catering facilities; hair salons, day spas, nail salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors, body piercing locations, and tanning facilities; and gyms, dance instruction studios, and other personal fitness venues.

Finally, the new order specifically requires that a facial covering “fully cover” the wearer’s nose, mouth, and chin. It also explains that the covering should be “comfortable” so that it does not have to be adjusted frequently “so as to avoid touching the face.”

A: The new order took effect on 12:01 a.m. on Monday, November 16, 2020, and remains in effect unless the State of Emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic is lifted.

Ohio Re-Tightens Restrictions on Mass Gatherings

A: Like many other states, Ohio has recently been experiencing a significant uptick in community spread of COVID-19. To combat this, Ohio’s Governor Mike DeWine, in conjunction with the Director of the Ohio Department of Health, has announced a series of revised public health orders. Most recently, the Director issued a revised order that limits and/or prohibits mass gatherings in the state, with exceptions.

A: Effective on Tuesday, November 17, 2020, the order again bans all public and private gatherings of more than 10 persons that occur outside of a single residence. As first announced in a March 14, 2020 public health order, mass gatherings were defined as events in which 100 or more persons were together in a single indoor space at the same time. Three days later, an amended order re-defined mass gatherings as events bringing together 50 or more persons in a single indoor space at the same time. Finally, the April 2, 2020 Director’s Amended Stay At Home Order prohibited gatherings of more than 10 persons.

A: The new order also places specific restrictions on wedding ceremonies and funeral observances (though both are explicitly permitted to continue). For example, the order prohibits socializing or other activities occurring “in open congregate areas.” It also bans dancing, except for “traditional wedding reception events such as first dance.” No more than 10 people, all of whom must be from the same household, can be seated at the same table, and guests must remain seated at all times. Self-serve buffets and bar areas are forbidden. Unless actively eating or drinking, masks are to be worn at all times.

A: The new order also does not apply to religious observances or to any First Amendment protected speech. The latter includes “petition or referendum circulators and any activity by the Media.” Finally, the new order does not supersede other specific Department of Health orders relating to restaurants, bars, banquet and catering facilities.

A: Violation of an Ohio Department of Health order is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine not to exceed $750.


Local communities are also stepping up their own limits on mass gatherings, in some cases in a manner more restrictive than the State. For example, at its meeting on Tuesday, November 16, 2020, the Akron City Council adopted a Private Gathering Ordinance. Effective immediately, it prohibits gatherings of more than 6 persons who do not live in the same household. Small gatherings of less than 6 persons not from the same household are permitted only when masks are worn if congregating indoors. (Exceptions are provided for those with a medical condition, while eating, for persons under age 10, and if outside while maintaining 6-foot social distancing.)

Violations of the Akron ordinance may result in a civil penalty of $250, though the ordinance stresses that “enforcement will focus on education and voluntary compliance whenever possible.” The ordinance expires after 30 days, unless further extended by the Akron City Council.

Similar local bans on mass gatherings are in place in Oxford, Kent, Cuyahoga County, and elsewhere.

A: As Thanksgiving rapidly approaches, homeowners and business owners who are contemplating hosting traditional holiday dinners should carefully review and comply with all applicable state and local restrictions on mass gatherings.

Ohio Implements 21-Day Overnight Curfew

A: In a continuing battle to reduce the exponential growth of coronavirus infections in Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine recently announced Ohio’s adoption of an overnight daily curfew, effective on Thursday, November 19, 2020. The mandate, in the form of an order from the Director of the Ohio Department of Health, will be in place for at least 21 days.

A: At a news conference earlier in the week during which he discussed the planned curfew, the Governor stated: “The curfew is aimed at helping to reduce the number of person-to-person contacts because the only way the virus lives is when it goes from one person to another. We have to flatten this curve again and get this under control.” According to the Governor, the overnight curfew was deemed to be “the most impactful option with the least disruption.”

A: The order, which was not posted to the State’s coronavirus website until a few hours before the curfew first took effect, is entitled “Director’s Stay At Home Tonight Order.” It cites the fact that every Ohio county currently qualifies as a “high incidence” county, necessitating “immediate action” intended to “slow the spread while keeping Ohio’s economy functioning.”

A: While the curfew is in effect, all Ohio citizens are ordered to remain in their place of residence from 10:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m., except as otherwise permitted by the order. “Residence” is defined to include the obvious – homes, apartments, and condominiums – but also places like college dormitories, hotels, “shared rental units,” and shelters. Persons whose residence is unsafe, such as domestic violence victims, are permitted and encouraged to leave their home in favor of a safer alternative.


The curfew has several broad categories of exceptions. First, it does not apply to religious observances or any First Amendment protected activity, including the work of the media.

Second, the curfew does not restrict any travel in or out of Ohio. This includes travel required by court order, “including to transport children pursuant to a custody agreement,” for early arrival for security purposes (think, get to the airport early), or to obtain fuel.

Third, the curfew does not apply to persons leaving their place of residence to engage in any of the following categories of “Essential Activities”:

  • for health and safety reasons, including visiting a hospital, emergency department, urgent care clinic, or pharmacy;
  • to obtain or deliver necessary services and supplies, including food and beverages (that “may be obtained only for consumption off-premises, through such means as in-house delivery, third-party delivery, drive-through, curbside pick-up, and carry-out”);
  • for necessary social services, which shall be broadly construed to ensure no limitation on delivering services to those in need;
  • for work, including volunteer activities;
  • to take care of or transport family members, friends, or pets in another household; and
  • for performing or accessing government services, including law enforcement and other first responders.

A: Although the Order was issued by the State Department of Health, any questions regarding its provisions should be directed to local health departments. Also, for communities that have adopted measures more restrictive than the overnight curfew, those provisions take precedence.

A: The curfew remains in effect until December 10, 2020, unless modified (or extended) by further order.