On March 19, 2020, in an action to try to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, Governor Wolf executed an Order to close the physical locations of all non-life-sustaining businesses. An initial list of life–sustaining businesses and an enforcement date of March 21 was provided to the public. However, after a flurry of waiver requests and confusion among business owners, the Wolf Administration further expanded the “life-sustaining business” list and pushed the enforcement date to begin on Monday, March 23 at 8:00 am. The updated “life-sustaining business” list can be found here.
Even after this expansion of what is considered a life-sustaining business, current non-life-sustaining businesses have the ability to request a waiver from the requirement to close physical locations. The process to submit a waiver has changed and requires all businesses seeking a waiver to fill out a form, which can be found here. As a part of the waiver form, business owners are required to explain how their business meets the life-sustaining definition. There is no clear definition, however, for that term. The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, cited by the Wolf Administration when expanding the list of life-sustaining businesses, provides guidance on “Identifying Critical Infrastructure during COVID-19” which may help business owners navigate that question. The guidance can be found here.
If business owners fail to comply with Governor Wolf’s Order, enforcement action may include fines, citations, or license suspensions. Additionally, the FAQ provided by the Wolf Administration which can be found here, states that “the Department of Health is authorized to prosecute noncompliant entities for the failure to comply with health laws, including quarantine, isolation or other disease control measures. Violators are subject to fines or imprisonment.”
As always, the Business Group at Stock and Leader can help to navigate these ever-changing rules and guidelines. Contact Stock and Leader’s Business team today.