Essential vs. Non-Essential Business

Last Friday Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran announced a “Stay at Home” order through April 10. At the time Moran said he was reluctant to issue such an order, because of his belief in personal freedoms, but the continued spread of COVID-19 had made doing so a necessity. The order can be extended or terminated early at his discretion.

The order allows for exceptions for residents to work or use essential services, including public parks and trails. However, team sports such as a game of basketball would not be permitted.

Since then the Tyler Morning Telegraph has had hundreds of questions from readers about specifics and the logistics of such a massive order. Moran took some time on Monday to answer some of the most commonly asked questions we received from readers.

What is the difference between a Stay at Home Order and a Shelter in Place?

The difference is only in the nomenclature of the order. The name of the order is intended to more clearly state the intent of its provisions. However, an order by either name will likely have similar provisions. The name itself does not govern any substantive matter contained within the order.

Can I go visit my friends or parents?

If a person is visiting a friend or parent for an Essential Activity, that is permitted. Examples of this would be to visit a friend or parent for an outdoor activity, to extend assistance with medical needs or deliver groceries.

Is there a curfew?

No.

Will workers need a permit or “paperwork” to drive?

No.

Are services such as lawn/yard care and pest control still ok to operate their business?

Yes.

Will law enforcement be pulling people over to see if they should be out?

No.

Can a hairstylist, tattoo artist, etc… operate if it’s just them and a single client by appointment only, with the door locked?

No. This does not follow the guidelines of the “Locked Business” exception because it is allowing public inside a non-essential business.

(Note: The locked business exception allows for certain businesses to continue to operate with 10 or fewer employees inside, if they are able to close the business off from the public)

Is the 10 person rule per office if you work in a large building?

It is 10 per business for each of their physical spaces. So, for a large building with separate suites for separate businesses, each business may operate under the Locked Business provision so long as they do not exceed the 10-person limit in their space and can still maintain proper social distancing within the space for the number of workers they have.

Can churches do those “parking lot services” where people are either in or beside their vehicle?

Yes.

What should I do if my neighbors are having a house party?

Exercise common sense and good judgment, just as you would in dealing with your neighbors on any other issue that may or may not be a violation of law. We do not expect citizens to monitor and report to law enforcement all violations of this order.

Can I travel to another county?

Yes, so long as the travel is for an Essential Activity or otherwise allowed under the order. However, you will need to check with the other county to determine if they have a similar order in place, and comply with that county’s order.

More information about the order can be found at Smith-County.com

Cory is a multimedia journalist and member of the Education Writers Association, Criminal Justice Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has appeared on Crime Watch Daily and Grave Mysteries on Investigation Discovery.

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