Question:  As a small business owner, how can I ensure my employees’ and guests’ health and safety during continued operations?

Answer:  Monterey County (the “County”) established guidelines and rules for the continuation of certain essential and minimum basic business operations during the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (“COVID-19”) pandemic.  On April 3, 2020, the County issued an updated Shelter in Place Order (the “Order”) which details mandatory Social Distancing Requirements for all individuals engaging in permissible business activities and requires such businesses to establish Social Distancing Protocols.  The Order will remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. on May 3, 2020.

Essential Business Operations.  The Order sets forth 28 categories of business operations which are deemed “essential”  including, but not limited to: restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery or carry out; grocery stores/supermarkets, certified farmers’ markets/stands, food banks; stores selling essential products, such as pet supplies, hygienic products, household consumer products necessary for personal hygiene or the habitability, sanitation, or operation of residences; hardware stores; and laundromats, drycleaners, and laundry service providers.

            Minimum Basic Operations.  The Order allows non-essential businesses to engage in Minimum Basic Operations, which are defined as only those minimal activities necessary to maintain and protect the value of the business’s inventory and facilities; ensure security, safety, and sanitation; process payroll and employee benefits; provide for the delivery of existing inventory directly to residences or businesses; and other related functions.  Similarly, Minimum Basic Operations are permitted at the job site to facilitate remote work.

Social Distancing Requirements.  Social Distancing requires individuals to: maintain at least a 6-foot distance from other individuals who are not part of the same household or living unit; frequently wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer; cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or fabric; and avoid all social interaction outside the household when sick with a fever or cough.

Social Distancing Protocols.  The Order requires all Essential Businesses and those performing Minimum Basic Operations to prepare a Social Distancing Protocol to explain how the business is achieving the Social Distancing Requirements described above.  The County encourages businesses to use a form available at https://www.co.monterey.ca.us/home/showdocument?id=88419.

Social Distancing Protocols may include, but are not limited to:

  • Limiting the number of people who can enter the facility to ensure that everyone (workers and guests) can easily maintain a minimum 6-foot distance from one another at all times;
  • Marking minimum 6-foot increments establishing where individuals should stand in a line to maintain adequate social distancing;
  • Indicating whether the business provides hand sanitizer for employees and customers, and where the hand sanitizer is located;
  • Providing for contactless payment systems; and
  • Regularly cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces, such as counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, and tablets.

The Social Distancing Protocol must be posted at or near the entrance of the facility and must be easily viewable by the public and employees. A copy of the Social Distancing Protocol must also be provided to each employee, including electronically for remote workers.

Penalties.  Failure to comply with any provisions of the Order – including failing to establish Social Distancing Protocols or continuing to operate non-essential businesses – may result in criminal and/or civil penalties.

Essential Businesses should enact the required Protocols right away to avoid violation of the Order.