Missouri and the St. Louis Region Get Back to Work: Business Guidelines, Practical Considerations, and Resources

As Missouri begins the work of gradually reopening its economy, state and local officials have provided certain restrictions and guidelines designed to continue to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  The State of Missouri implemented its Show Me Strong Recovery Plan, which included issuing a statewide Reopening Order (“Missouri Order”) with accompanying Guidelines for Businesses (“Missouri Guidelines”).  The Missouri Order went into effect on May 4, 2020, and stays in effect through May 31, 2020.  The Missouri Order allows all businesses to open, while placing specific requirements on retailers and restaurants. 

Meanwhile, officials in the St. Louis region have announced a phased approach to reopening the local economy.  At the outset, it is important to note that St. Louis County has had the most COVID-19 cases and deaths in the State of Missouri.  On May 18, 2020, most businesses may resume operations, provided they follow detailed guidelines.  St. Louis County issued its Business and Individual Guidelines for Social Distancing and Reopening (“St. Louis County Guidelines”) on May 8, 2020.  Shortly thereafter, on May 11, 2020, the City of St. Louis issued its Reopening Order directing City businesses to follow its Phase I Reopening Standards and Guidance (“City of St. Louis Guidelines”).

These reopening measures replace the prior Stay at Home Orders in Missouri and locally in the St. Louis region.  As part of managing this next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, Missouri businesses must understand and follow the general guidance for all businesses, as well as any applicable industry-specific requirements.  Moreover, the guidelines issued by St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis are significantly more restrictive and detailed than what the state has provided.  As a result, businesses in the St. Louis region must educate themselves on the relevant guidelines, and follow them.  This article will outline:  (1) Missouri Order and Guidelines; (2) St. Louis County Guidelines and City of St. Louis Guidelines; and (3) Practical Considerations and Resources for Reopening.

  1. Missouri Order and Guidelines

Operating Businesses

All businesses may operate beginning May 4, 2020.  However, schools are to remain closed for the 2019-2020 academic year. 

Guidelines for Businesses

As part of the Show Me Strong Recovery Plan, the Missouri Guidelines provide recommendations for all operating businesses, even though most of them are not part of a formal order.  Instead, they are listed on the Show Me Strong Recovery Plan website.  All businesses are recommended to:

  • Implement basic infection prevention measures regarding protective equipment, temperature checks, testing/isolation/contact tracing, and sanitation;
  • Modify physical workplaces to maximize social distancing;
  • Minimize business travel;
  • Develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan;
  • Monitor the workforce for indicative symptoms and do not allow symptomatic employees to return to work unless cleared by a medical provider;
  • Develop, implement, and communicate about workplace flexibilities and protections, such as telework, altered shifts, limiting access to common areas, and flexible sick leave policies;
  • Follow social distancing requirements, including maintaining six feet social distancing; and
  • Implement precautionary measures when social distancing of six feet is not possible due to job duties.

Only the social distancing requirements are set forth in the Missouri Order.  There are no additional details provided by the state with respect to any of these recommendations.

Industry-Specific Guidelines

Missouri has provided industry-specific guidance only for retailers and restaurants as part of the Missouri Order:

  • Retailers: Must implement occupancy limits (25% of the authorized fire or building code if 10,000 sq. ft. or more; 10% if larger)
  • Restaurants: May offer dine-in service while adhering to social distancing measures with six feet spacing between tables, no communal seating for parties not connected, no more than 10 people at a single table (The use of drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options is still encouraged)
  1. St. Louis County and City of St. Louis Guidelines

Operating Businesses

The Guidelines for St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis are effective on May 18, 2020.  The Guidelines will remain in effect until they are rescinded or modified. 

The St. Louis County Guidelines allow for the reopening of most businesses, but still require that some businesses remain closed.  The businesses to remain closed include banquet rooms, gyms and fitness centers, entertainment/conference/sporting venues, bars and businesses that primarily serve alcohol and not full meals (limited to curbside/pickup services), indoor and outdoor pools (non-residential), sporting events, sporting courts, and playgrounds.  Professional sporting teams are allowed to train and practice without the public present.  For business that must remain closed, they are permitted to continue “Minimum Basic Operations,” including activities necessary to maintain the value of a business’s inventory, provide security, process payroll or employee benefits, or facilitate employees being able to continue to work remotely. 

The list of businesses allowed to reopen in the City of St. Louis has a few differences from St. Louis County.  Specifically, the City of St. Louis allows bars, pools, and playgrounds to reopen.  Further, in the City, sports stadiums and cultural institutions are also to remain closed in Phase 1 or until specific operating protocols are approved.

Guidelines for Businesses

While the St. Louis County and City of St. Louis Guidelines are identical in many respects, there are still material differences that require close attention to both of the guidelines.  Here is a side-by-side comparison of the key requirements pertaining to employers:


St. Louis County

City of St. Louis

Face Coverings and Gloves

Provide employees and volunteers working in facility with face coverings (or supplies to make)

Provide employees and volunteers working in the business with face coverings (or supplies to make)

Require employees and volunteers to wear face coverings while at work, unless working alone in an enclosed area or they have a medical reason not to wear

Require employees and volunteers to wear face coverings at work, unless working alone in enclosed area or working outside and maintaining social distancing

Not addressed

Gloves should be worn where appropriate

Social Distancing

Not organize or attend an intentional gathering of 10+ people in a single space or room

No social gatherings of 10+ people

Maintain six-foot distancing, ensure appropriate hand hygiene, cover coughs/sneezes with something other than hands, regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces, not shaking hands, including for all gatherings

Maintain six-foot distancing between employees and customers and implement social distancing protocols

Not addressed for all businesses, but is an additional requirement for certain public-facing businesses

Post signage on face coverings, hygiene, and social distancing for employees and customers

Not addressed for all businesses, but is an additional requirement for certain public-facing businesses

Consider other measures such as  installing physical barriers between customers and employees, using tape or other means to increase compliance with social distancing requirements

Not addressed

Encourage telework where feasible

Handwashing/ Disinfection

Provide hand washing or sanitizing opportunities (i.e., breaks) for employees and public

Provide hand washing or sanitizing opportunities (i.e., breaks) for employees and make hand sanitizer available for public

Require frequent sanitization of high-touch areas

Perform proper cleaning per CDC guidelines and require employees to routinely disinfect high-touch areas


Train employees on Social Distancing and Handwashing/Disinfection requirements

Provide material and education regarding proper cleaning procedures

Employee Screening

Conduct daily screening of employees and volunteers working in facility for symptoms

Establish daily protocols to evaluate employee health (the Guidelines include a sample Screening Form that can be used by employers)

Encourage employees or volunteers to quarantine or isolate if symptomatic or if they have come into contact with individuals compromised by COVID-19

Allow employees to quarantine

St. Louis County businesses that engage in direct interaction with the public and primarily provide goods for sale, food or drink for consumption, personal services requiring sustained in-person contact, or religious or spiritual services are subject to the following additional requirements:

  • Limit occupancy (25% of authorized fire or building code occupancy if 10,000 sq. ft. or less; 10% if larger space);
  • Install physical barriers between customers and employers where six-feet social distancing not possible;
  • Install clear markings with signage, tape, or other means that show six feet of distance as the appropriate spacing between customers where lines or congregation prone to occur;
  • Provide signage inside and outside of facility on social distancing requirements, occupancy limits, and applicable procedures;
  • Prohibit customers from bringing outside containers (i.e., reusable bags) into the facility;
  • Establish hours of operation, where possible, for high-risk individuals; and
  • Arrange for contactless payment, pick-up, or delivery options and post such options.

These St. Louis County businesses can also deny entry to members of the public refusing to wear face coverings for non-medical reasons.  However, businesses cannot require verifying medical documentation.  Businesses providing medication, medical supplies or food, must provide alternative methods to provide such goods.  The City of St. Louis Guidelines for retailers only provide that it is recommended that all guests be required to wear face coverings while in the store.

Industry-Specific Guidance

St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis each issued eight industry-specific guidelines called “Operating Protocols” with nearly identical content.  St. Louis County issued the Operating Protocols separate from the guidelines that it formally issued, while the City of St. Louis provided the Operating Protocols as exhibits attached to its Guidelines. 

These Operating Protocols are linked below:

St. Louis County

City of St. Louis

Both localities also provide additional resources online.  The City of St. Louis provides guidance for schools, advising them to follow DESE Information, DESE Summer School Memorandum, and CDC Guidance for Schools.  St. Louis County provided a compilation of COVID-19 Educational Materials with Guidance for Businesses and Health Care Providers.  This compilation includes 23 documents addressing myriad topics including cloth masks, employee exposure, disinfection, food service and delivery, and guidance for specific businesses (lodging establishments; grocery stores; school district food delivery; farmers markets; health care providers; residential living, long-term care, and outpatient hemodialysis facilities; child care settings, funeral homes; and landlords).

  1. Practical Considerations and Resources for Reopening

The return to work process presents numerous challenges for employers.  We recommend that employers take a step-by-step approach to this process, which should include the following at a minimum:

  1. Review applicable state and local guidance with respect to reopening your business and specific requirements.
  2. Determine whether you want to reopen your workplace at this time.  If employees have been successfully working remotely, do you want to continue to allow them to do so?  Are there financial considerations with respect to reopening the workplace and bringing employees back to work?
  3. Develop a plan for calling employees back to work.  If you decide to reopen your workplace, you will need to evaluate which employees should be returned to the workplace if all employees will not be immediately called back. 
  4. Prepare and implement plans for maintaining a safe workplace and comply with applicable state and local requirements.
    • Consider who will be responsible for establishing and implementing COVID-19 protocols;
    • Consider CDC and OSHA guidance to establish protocols for worksite cleaning, engineering and administrative controls, and an employee exposure action plan;
    • Consider ADA and EEO guidance in drafting policies, such as ensuring employee confidentiality during health screening protocols and exposure contact tracing; and
    • Obtain the necessary face coverings (possibly also gloves for the City) that must be provided to employees working in St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis, and prepare to address whether disposable or cloth masks will be provided who will launder any cloth provided, whether there will be company discipline for failure to comply, and any necessary accommodations for those unable to wear (e.g., for medical reason).
  5. Evaluate existing telework arrangements and whether to continue them.    
  6. Evaluate existing leave and accommodation policies for compliance with ADA and EEO guidance as well as compliance with the FFCRA, state, and local leave allotments;
  7. Conduct trainings for all employees, including managers, on safety and other requirements as part of reopening.  St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis mandate training and education for employees on particular topics.  
  8. Continue to reevaluate your return-to-work plan.
  9. Create contingency plans to prepare for what your organization will do if there is a second wave.

For resources on implementing these practical considerations and more, visit the Littler COVID-19 Resources for Employers, which contains Littler’s new COVID-19 Return to Work Initiative

Because the COVID-19 situation is dynamic, with new governmental measures each day, employers should consult with counsel for the latest developments and updated guidance on this topic.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.