7 Laws You Can Now Break Amid Coronavirus
Life has changed dramatically, and so have these legal regulations.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed virtually every aspect of our lives, from the way we work to the way we maintain relationships. And as our behaviors and habits shifted, laws changed too, to reflect our new way of life. Some laws have been created in response to COVID-19—in some states, it is illegal to be without a mask in public—while other laws have been relaxed, to help make living in this new normal a little bit more manageable. Read on to find out what laws you can break now because of coronavirus. And to see where COVID-19 cases are spiking, check out 8 States Where Coronavirus Cases Are Skyrocketing Right Now.
Open container laws
If you've noticed an increase in people strolling down the street and sipping cocktails, it's definitely due in part to coronavirus. "It is typically a violation of city and county ordinances to possess open alcohol containers on public property, yet many jurisdictions have relaxed these laws due to economic concerns," says Kris Parker, Esq. To help bars and restaurants remain in business, many states are letting liquor in the streets slide, as lots of establishments are selling alcohol to-go. "Strict enforcement of open container laws would force many local companies out of business, and collectively this would have a devastating effect on the local and national economies," Parker continues. "The flexibility of selective law enforcement and relaxation of open container laws are helping to keep many small businesses open during a fragile economic period."
Video chatting with your healthcare provider
Healthcare is the industry that's been impacted the most by the coronavirus pandemic. Adjustments have been made to the system to ensure that healthcare providers can continue to service to as many people as they can, as safely as possible. One of the most significant shifts for many providers was the transition to telemedicine.
"Currently, HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] rules are being relaxed to allow any type of platform to be used for virtual visits, even FaceTime and Skype," says Io Dolka, care advocate and founder of Grey Zone. While privacy concerns may have previously prevented you from giving your doctor information over those apps, doing so now is the responsible thing. And if you have to go into your doctor's office, check out 7 Precautions You Must Take Before Going to the Doctor Amid Coronavirus.
For many of the more than 20 million unemployed, paying rent is more difficult than ever. As a result, several states have adapted or suspended their laws concerning eviction. "In many states that have eviction laws, state governments have adopted special rules to protect renters that may be suffering as a result of COVID-19 and prevent them from being evicted," says Michael Weiner, attorney, and partner at Slate Law Group. New York state has passed a ruling that no one can be evicted until at least Aug. 20, though that period may be extended again. Additionally, tenants can use their security deposit to pay their rent and then repay their security deposit over time. For information on the coronavirus hot spots, check out These Are the Worst Coronavirus "Super Spreaders" You Need to Know.
Background checks for childcare providers
With schools closed, many essential workers scrambled to find childcare at the beginning of lockdown. As a result, some states relaxed the stringent regulations providers are usually subject to. In New York, a law mandating that childcare providers undergo criminal background checks has been suspended. Additionally, Washington state issued an order temporarily suspending various childcare licensing requirements. If you're at home with your children and struggling to entertain them, check out 19 Family Games for When You're Stuck in the House.
Outdoor dinning restrictions
As summer approaches and people are eager to enjoy the warm weather, some governments are making it easier for restaurants to implement outdoor seating. "Many cities are easing restrictions on outdoor dining, and they are examining and allowing temporary use permits for restaurants to extend their outdoor spaces into parking spaces and adjacent areas," says Weiner. "This will allow space for more customers and will help maintain social distancing." These small adjustments in states from Florida to Connecticut could have a huge impact on struggling local businesses.
Unemployment benefit requirements
With record levels of unemployment, many states have taken measures to help streamline the process of receiving unemployment checks. "In California, the Employment Development Department has relaxed the requirements and level of information needed in order to get unemployment insurance. Previously they required much more information upfront, such as an in-depth certification of unemployment, and a detailed accounting of where and how you tried to get a job. Now, that is not the case," explains Kelly Williams, founder and attorney at Slate Law Group.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that they did "not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the EPA agrees that COVID-19 was the cause of the noncompliance." Essentially this change–which is in place indefinitely—allows major polluters like factories and power plants to use their discretion in deciding whether or not coronavirus will prevent them from meeting legal requirements surrounding air and water pollution and hazardous waste. Additionally, the EPA has decided it will not be fining companies for violating select requirements on limiting pollution during the pandemic. Check out 5 Sneaky Ways You're Exposing Yourself to Coronavirus to learn how to keep yourself safe.