Coronavirus Update: States Start Reopening Economies

By Kris Janisch
Published May 1, 2020

Coronavirus Update: States Start Reopening Economies

Stay-at-home orders to expire in many states; some governors opting for phased approach to get businesses open again.

A little over three months since the first confirmed coronavirus case in the U.S., some states are beginning to reopen their economies.

Many stay-at-home orders across the country are scheduled to expire this week. And some governors have begun allowing businesses to operate again, to varying degrees.

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The patchwork of regulations makes it difficult for employers to develop an across-the-board plan for their locations. Plus, because orders and regulations are changing daily during the coronavirus pandemic (the Arizona governor announced plans April 29), employers should be sure to consult state agencies and legal counsel for information and guidance.

Still, it is worth highlighting some of the states that have allowed certain non-essential companies to begin doing business again.


Starting May 1 in Colorado, some businesses can reopen, including retail stores, hair salons and personal service establishments, and others. There are coronavirus-related precautions they must take while reopening.

Other types of businesses must remain closed under Colorado’s “Safer at Home” program:

  • Bars
  • Restaurants
  • Gyms
  • Theaters
  • Casinos and racetracks

A complete list of businesses that can reopen under the new plan can be found on the state’s website.

Also, come May 4, offices in Colorado can reopen at 50 percent capacity, though employers are encouraged to have workers telecommute if possible.

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Citing “favorable data and approval from health officials,” Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has announced that theaters, restaurants, barbershops and other businesses can reopen as long as they meet certain coronavirus-related guidelines.

Bowling alleys, gyms, beauty shops and other businesses were also allowed to reopen.

However, excluded businesses include:

  • Bars
  • Nightclubs
  • Amusement park rides
  • Live performance venues

The state’s shelter-in-place order was in effect until April 30; it could be extended. Vulnerable populations are under the restrictions until May 13.


Michigan’s “Safe Start Plan” calls for slowly reopening businesses, with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer already relaxing restrictions on:

  • Golf courses
  • Landscaping and lawn service
  • Bike shops
  • Garden centers

“The first will be additional outdoor enterprises that we feel pose low risk. We’ll also be looking at residential and commercial construction. That industry, for example, will be one of the first sectors to return to work. We’re also carefully evaluating a number of industrial sectors,” Whitmer said on April 27.


Minnesota has also opted for a gradual approach to reopening its economy.

Some non-essential businesses can now operate, but there are several restrictions. Eligible businesses include:

  • Those with no direct customer contact
  • Manufacturing, agriculture and industrial
  • Certain offices

All businesses that plan to reopen must have a COVID-19 plan in place, which includes social distancing and cleaning processes.


Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced this week that May 12 will mark the reopening of many businesses in the state, including retail shops and consumer services.

There are limitations to the Responsible Restart Ohio plan, including:

  • Restaurants
  • Personal-care services
  • Public amusement facilities, i.e., stadiums, arcades, parades, etc.

Like other states, the governor’s directive includes COVID-19 guidelines. “No mask, no work, no service, no exception,” he said at a press conference.

Other businesses can open May 1, including dentists and vets, and other can start on May 4 — manufacturing, construction and others.


In Tennessee — where 15 percent of the state’s workforce had filed for unemployment as of this week — the state has decided to allow restaurants to serve dine-in customers starting Monday, May 4.

Part of Gov. Bill Lee’s “Tennessee Pledge” plan, the decision:

  • Impacts 89 of the state’s 95 counties
  • Includes retail establishments
  • Imposes a 50 percent limit on restaurant/retail store capacity
  • Includes social distancing other safety elements
  • Excludes larger cities such as Nashville and Memphis

However, the measure does not allow for bars to reopen or live music events to be held. Further guidance can be found on a state webpage.


The world’s 10th largest economy, Texas has taken one of the most aggressive approaches to reopening its economy.

Under an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott, starting Friday, May 1, Texas will allow many establishments to reopen, including:

  • Restaurants
  • Shopping malls
  • Movie theaters
  • Retail shops
  • Libraries
  • Museums

However, these and other businesses will not be able to open fully as they were before the COVID-19 pandemic. Occupancy limits are in place, as are safe standard protocols, such as social distancing and recommending people wear masks.

Meanwhile, other types of businesses will not be able to open, though the governor has said he hopes to see such establishments open before the middle of May. Those include:

  • Bars
  • Barbershops and salons
  • Gyms

The governor’s office has issued “Open Texas Checklists” for more information.


Many states opted to coordinate their efforts to allow businesses to open, including areas of the Northeast and a group of western states. But as of this week, many individual states have announced plans to at least partially reopen commerce, or plan to do so soon.

As businesses begin to reopen, employers will have decisions to make about their preparedness. Some businesses have opted to remain closed even when the option to open exists (there are liability concerns employers should consider).

Also, state agencies have issued guidance and orders along with allowing companies to begin operating again. It’s another layer of compliance to consider as employers navigate the current coronavirus landscape.

This Employment Law News Blog is intended for market awareness only, it is not to be used for legal advice or counsel.

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