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New Pennsylvania COVID-19 Mitigation Orders

As COVID cases begin to skyrocket in the state of Pennsylvania and around the country, Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health have issued a number of new mandates, including a new Order for business entities. This article identifies several changes and updated requirements for businesses, but the entirety of the mitigation efforts should be reviewed in order to identify any industry-specific requirements. Note that this new Order announced November 23, 2020, rescinds the prior Orders of March 19, 2020, April 1, 2020, May 7, 2020, May 27, 2020, and July 15, 2020, which are further identified in the Order. Unless otherwise noted, the following changes are imposed upon business operations and go into effect as of 12:01 am November 27, 2020:

  • Additional signage regarding six-foot distancing and capacity limitations is required.
  • Telework is mandatory unless impossible.
  • For businesses that are permitted to maintain in-person operations, they must implement temperature screening before employees may enter the business premises, regardless of whether there has been an instance of exposure.
  • Specific cleaning protocols are mandated, consistent with CDC guidelines, with additional mandated cleaning requirements for areas visited by a person with COVID-19.
  • New capacity limitations for indoor and outdoor events have been issued, which can be found here.
  • Plexi-glass partitions must be installed at check-out areas and counters.
  • A specific time must be designated for seniors’ use of the business premises at least once every week if there is a continuing in-person customer-facing component to the business.
  • Contact tracing must be undertaken upon request by the Department of Health.

The full Order can be found here.

Additionally, businesses should review the updated face mask order. While mask-wearing became mandatory earlier this year, the universal face mask order has been revised and strengthened. All employees and persons visiting a business must wear a face mask at all times, with very few exceptions. Face shields may be considered as an alternative if wearing a face mask is not feasible. Signage regarding the requirement to wear a mask must be posted. The revised face mask Order can be found here and FAQ can be found here. Note that the civil liability immunity being afforded to businesses when enforcing the universal masking requirement does not apply to employers when enforcing the requirements regarding its employees. Accordingly, employers should continue to engage in the interactive process pursuant to the Americans With Disabilities Act regarding enforcing the requirement to wear a mask as necessary.

Persons who fail to comply with an order may be fined between $25 and $300. Enforcement agencies include the Pennsylvania State Police, local law enforcement, personnel from the departments of Agriculture and State, and PA Liquor Control Board. Following a complaint about a business, the Department of Health states that it will send a warning letter informing the business of the potential consequences, which include fines and closure if the business is not compliant with the mitigation orders. If a business continues to receive complaints, it risks referral to the Pennsylvania State Police or regulatory agencies, further fines and possible closure.

These new and updated requirements for businesses are in addition to the travel restrictions implemented on November 17, 2020, that mandated a fourteen (14) day quarantine upon returning to or traveling into Pennsylvania from out of state, unless a negative COVID-19 test obtained within 72 hours prior to entering the Commonwealth can be produced. The change from recommended quarantine to mandatory quarantine likely qualifies employees for paid sick leave pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). You should consult your employment attorney regarding the employee’s specific circumstances to determine whether FFCRA paid sick leave is applicable.

Updates will be available from Stock and Leader in the near future as we more closely analyze the impacts of this new Order on previously issued guidance. As always, please contact an attorney in Stock and Leader’s Business and Employment Group if you have questions regarding compliance with the Commonwealth’s Orders related to COVID-19 and CDC guidance.

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