Are the Governor’s Stay at Home Mandates Too Confusing to Follow?
There's no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to some unprecedented circumstances and changes. We, as a society, have never had to adapt, adjust and change at such a rapid pace. From social distancing to Stay at Home/Shelter in Place orders on a scale this large is something most of us have never had to deal with. And despite it being a trying and frustrating time for all of us in uncharted waters, I'd say most of us are handling the situation fairly well.
However, because this has been so unprecedented and so many things have evolved and changed so quickly, it has been very confusing for everyone. And, Louisiana is no exception to that. In fact, there have been several mix up that have confused business leaders and citizens alike.
Now, before we really get into this, I'm not trying to place blame on Governor John Bel Edwards or any other local leaders. And, I'm certain these are confusing times for everyone everywhere. In the nation there are several contradictory and confusing orders in place. For instance, in California, you're allowed to swim in the ocean but are forbidden to be on the beach. How do you get in the ocean without being on the beach? You got me.
And Louisiana is no exception to that type of confusion. At several points over the last month, there were several parts of the 'Stay at Home' order that have been confusing and frustrating to many.
Last week, the Governor's Chief of Staff Mark Cooper told Greg Atoms of KEEL News that only businesses that were specifically deemed and straight up mentioned as 'non-essential' were being forced to close. Any business not specifically mentioned in the 'essential' or 'must close' categories could legally open and operate using strict social distancing guidelines and limits. However, many businesses that did not need to be closed shut down not fully understanding the Governor's orders. You can hear Mark Cooper discuss the matter and confusion with Greg Atoms here.
Again, not trying to place blame or say that anyone did anything underhanded, but during these confusing times there was some ambiguity and lack of explanation of the rules. And I will say that the Stay at Home extension issued on March 11th did a much better job clearly outlining what is and is not allowed.
But the latest Stay at Home order update for restaurants did lead to further confusion. In the original order, restaurants in the state were allowed to have take-out (going inside to place an order), curbside pick-up, delivery or drive-thru service. However, some local municipalities issued their own order (like the City of Shreveport) that said restaurants could only serve customers with curbside pick-up, delivery or drive-thru. In the Stay at Home extension, the Governor opened up the option of patio dining with strict rules, but limited restaurants to only operate with curbside pick-up, delivery or drive-thru. And this is where the confusion comes in.
I know several restaurants (and I won't mention names) that did not shutdown their takeout order business when the governor issued his extension. And despite the explicit language in the order banning the public from entering or consuming items in restaurants, the Fire Marshal (who was tasked with designing rules for the patio dining option allowed by the updated SAH order) is allowing customers to use the restrooms inside. In addition, on the Governor's website, there's a 'Can This Business Open?' frequently asked question sheet. On that sheet, it states the restaurants can open for "takeout and curbside pick up." However, in the actual order, it states "takeout through curbside, delivery, and delivery services." (can be found in Section 2, under D in the order). Those two things are can be interpreted differently and can be confusing for both the general public and business owners without reading the full blown order.
Again, I don't believe there's any nefarious intention in any of this. These are confusing times for all of us and we're just doing our best to stay healthy while trying to survive and pay the bills. However, some things could have and should have been explained a bit more thoroughly. Luckily, there seems to be a solid plan in place for all the phases, which officially starts next week.