Late on March 19, Pennsylvania and California issued stricter orders to residents and businesses to try to contain the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Pennsylvania’s governor issued an order effectively requiring all non-life sustaining businesses to close their physical locations and move to a virtual/telework business model to attempt to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
California’s governor issued an order to California residents to “stay at home” except as needed to maintain continuity of operations of critical businesses. In his order, Gov. Newsom specifically recognized that “the supply chain must continue.”
The transportation attorneys at Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary point out that these orders apply regardless of whether businesses are open to the public, and therefore have a substantially farther reach than currently existing state and local restrictions on restaurants, bars, and other businesses at which people typically gather.
Both states continue to permit the operation of “essential” businesses. The federal government has identified transportation and logistics services as part of the essential critical infrastructure, and no state-level order has yet sought to curtail these essential operations.
An alert from Scopelitis explains that beyond transportation of cargo, this includes employees supporting or enabling transportation functions, firms that enable transportation logistics, automotive repair and maintenance facilities, manufacturers and distributors of packaging and distribution and staging materials, and employees who repair and maintain vehicles.
The California Trucking Association issued an alert to members noting that in the governor's press conference, he indicated he is largely expecting voluntary compliance, but that enforcement actions could be taken in the future if necessary.
“CTA staff is already working to seek further guidance and clarification from the federal and state governments. In the meanwhile, please heed this section of from the Department of Homeland Security guidance: ‘Critical infrastructure industry partners will use their own judgment, informed by this list, to ensure continued operations of critical infrastructure services and functions. All decisions should appropriately balance public safety while ensuring the continued delivery of critical infrastructure services and functions.’
“It goes without saying that we are in uncharted territory. We urge our members to exercise your best judgment during these times and institute best practices to ensure our essential workforce remains healthy and that we can continue to keep the nation's supply chain moving.”