Despite orders prohibiting gatherings of more than ten people, last week, the Colorado Symphony recorded a new performance of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. The recording, made with each musician performing from home while in social isolation, quickly went viral.
There is magic in hearing dozens of musicians performing beautiful music despite not being able to join together in a concert hall. But Colorado Symphony’s selection of Ode to Joy sends an additional message of encouragement to the community.
Ode to Joy, the last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, was completed after the famous composer had become profoundly deaf. Beethoven’s ability to create a joyful composition to be performed by a full symphony plus a chorus while he was losing his hearing, inspires hope and strength to conquer personal challenges.
As we face the coronavirus (“COVID-19”) pandemic, we need these messages of hope as we face changes to life as we know it. Today, joining many other states, Maryland’s Governor Hogan issued Executive Order 20-03-30-01 (“Stay-at-Home Order”), ordering residents to stay at home except under limited circumstances. This updated Executive Order 20-03-23-01 (“March 23 Order”), which prohibited large gatherings and closed non-essential businesses.
This article is part of a series discussing COVID-19. Previous articles in this series are available in my Bach to Business blog. This article discusses the difference between a stay-at-home order and an order closing non-essential businesses. For a discussion about what businesses are essential, read my previous article Coronavirus—Is Your Business Essential?
How is the Stay-at-Home Order Different from the March 23 Order?
The March 23 Order had two parts. One focused on individuals, prohibited gatherings of more than ten people. The other, focused on businesses, ordered that non-essential businesses close. The March 23 Order authorizes criminal penalties of up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine on violators.
Since March 15, our family has remained in our house except for daily, socially distanced walks for exercise and a weekly excursion to buy groceries and go to the pharmacy. Although these weeks may not have been what we had planned for our spring, these weeks are a small inconvenience given the need to flatten the COVID-19 curve to save lives.
When the March 23 Order closed non-essential businesses and prohibited gatherings of more than ten people, I assumed people wouldn’t have many reasons to leave home except to get food, medical treatment, or socially distanced exercise. I was wrong.
Last weekend, police arrested a Maryland man for hosting a bonfire party with dozens of people in violation of the March 23 Order prohibiting large gatherings. According to news reports, this wasn’t the first time police had been called about the man’s violation of the Governor’s orders.
Maryland parks had to take the rims off basketball hoops and install fences around playgrounds because parents and children were ignoring the March 23 Order and CDC recommendations. My neighborhood listserv hosted a lively discussion about kids playing basketball and other contact sports on the school sport courts. The school principal sent a reminder about social distancing to parents. But even this didn’t stop some children from ignoring social distancing.
Under the March 23 Order, the only criminal penalties for individuals were for being in a gathering of more than ten people. That’s why the police arrested the man with the bonfire party. But even had the police been called, they couldn’t have stopped the kids from playing basketball or parents from allowing their children on park playground equipment.
If a customer had visited a non-essential business open in violation of the March 23 Order, only the business and its owner could have been criminally charged. It would have been hard to make criminal charges against the customer stick. The Stay-at-Home Order changed that. Now, individuals can be criminally charged for engaging in non-essential activities or violating CDC social distancing recommendations.
What New Things Does the Stay-at-Home Order Prohibit?
Under the March 23 Order, the essential/non-essential distinction related to businesses. The Stay-at-Home Order has a list of essential activities, but these are for individuals, rather than businesses. Individual essential activities are:
Obtaining necessary supplies or services, for one’s self, family, household members, pet, or livestock consumption, use, or safety. These include groceries, telecommuting supplies, laundry, essential home maintenance, and, of course, toilet paper! So, you can get supplies to fix your broken toilet but need to delay using the unexpected time at home to redecorate.
Engaging in activities essential for the health and safety of one’s self, family, household members, pet, or livestock. These include medical or behavioral health treatment, medication, and medical supplies.
Caring for a family member, friend, pet, or livestock in another household or location, including. This includes transportation to obtain permissible supplies or services, including medical care.
Traveling to and from an educational institution to get meals or instructional materials for distance learning.
Engaging in outdoor exercise activities, such as walking, hiking, running, or biking, but only in compliance with social distancing guidance published by the CDC and Maryland Department of Health. Recreational boating is prohibited, as are contact sports.
Travel required by a law enforcement officer or court order.
Traveling to and from a federal, state, or local government building for a necessary purpose.
The Stay-at-Home Order doesn’t apply to homeless individuals. And victims of domestic violence and other individuals living in an unsafe environment may leave their homes to go to a safe location or to obtain help. The Stay-at-Home Order also doesn’t prohibit staff or volunteers traveling to, from, or in connection with their duties at any governmental unit, news or media service, non-profit organization, or facility that provides essential services to low-income individuals.
Guidance on the Governor’s office’s website also recommends restricting interstate travel, suggesting
No Marylander should be traveling outside of the state unless such travel is absolutely necessary. Those who have traveled outside of the state should self-quarantine for 14 days.
Individuals in the DC metro area who live in Maryland but perform essential work, such as healthcare services, in the District or Virginia or vice versa, are exempt as long as there isn’t another reason to self-quarantine. Individuals who are only traveling through Maryland should only stop for food and gas and may not have contact with anyone in the state for more than three minutes at a distance of less than six feet.
How Does the Order Affect Essential Businesses?
The State-at-Home Order doesn’t change which businesses can remain open. But the order may change some businesses’ practices.
Non-essential business may no longer allow curbside pickup. However, non-essential businesses may deliver orders to customers, provided they comply with CDC social distancing guidelines (e.g., contactless delivery). The Stay-at-Home Order doesn’t add restrictions on restaurants, which may continue to sell food and drink on a carry-out or drive-through basis.
Interpretive Guidance from the Governor’s Office of Legal Counsel recommends employers in essential businesses give their employees, so they aren’t challenged by police when traveling to and from work. The letter should include:
The name and address of the employee;
The name and address of the employer;
The nature of the employee’s work;
A brief statement of why the employer remains open for business;
A signature and contact information for the employer.
As help for real estate closings, estate planning, and other essential business activities requiring notarized documents, Maryland now allows remote notarization of documents. However, individual notaries must notify the Maryland Secretary of State they intend to perform remote notarizations before doing so.
Clarifications Regarding Non-Essential Businesses
Finally, the Stay-at-Home Order clarifies that non-essential businesses may have staff and owners on-site for “Minimal Operations,” such as to:
Facilitate telework by other staff;
Maintain essential property;
Prevent loss of or damage to property;
Perform essential administrative functions, like picking up mail and processing payroll;
Caring for live animals.
Also, non-essential retail establishments may continue to sell products on a delivery basis. Although religious institutions are non-essential businesses, in addition to Minimal Operations, staff and clergy may facilitate remote worship.
When Will It End?
The Stay-at-Home Order says it will end “after the termination of the state of emergency and the proclamation of the catastrophic health emergency has been rescinded” or when the Governor rescinds the order. But that doesn’t answer the metaphorical question we all are asking–when will life get back to normal?
No one knows for sure when life will get back to normal. Even when the Stay-at-Home Order goes away and the immediate coronavirus concerns have abated, our lifestyle likely will be forever changed.
Like Beethoven had the power to decide how he dealt with his hearing loss, we can determine how we deal with the societal outcome from the COVID-19 pandemic. Beethoven responded to a potentially career-ending loss of hearing by writing Ode to Joy, some of the most beautiful music ever composed. It’s up to us how to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and whether we, too, can grow and create something positive out of the current crisis.
© 2020 by Elizabeth A. Whitman
Any references clients and their legal situations have been modified to protect client confidentiality
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