Governor Wolf’s Administration Revising and Reissuing Covid-19 Orders
With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Governor Wolf’s administration is revising and reissuing its orders to protect businesses, customers, and employees. The new orders consolidate previous orders and include reiterating cleaning and social distancing requirements, mandatory telework requirements unless impossible, and other safety measures. The orders take effect at midnight on November 27, 2020.
Unless impossible, all businesses must conduct their operations remotely, through individual teleworking of their employees in the jurisdiction or jurisdictions in which they do business. Where telework is impossible, employees may conduct in-person business operations, provided that the business otherwise complies with other state order and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Cleaning and Mitigation Protocols
A business maintaining in-person operations, other than healthcare providers, are required to do the following:
Cleaning: In addition to maintaining pre-existing cleaning protocols, the business must: close off areas visited by a person who is a case of COVID-19; open outside doors and windows and use ventilation fans to increase air circulation in the area; and wait a minimum of 24 hours, or as long as practical, before beginning cleaning and disinfection. Cleaning staff should clean and disinfect all areas such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, including but not limited to employee break rooms, conference or training rooms and dining facilities, shared electronic equipment like tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, and ATM machines used by the ill person, focusing especially on frequently touched areas.
Mitigation Measures: With regard to mitigation measures, businesses must:
- implement temperature screening before employees enter the business, prior to the start of each shift or, for employees who do not work shifts, before the employee starts work, and send employees home that have an elevated temperature or fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher;
- stagger work start and stop times for employees when practicable to prevent gatherings of large groups entering or leaving the premises at the same time;
- provide a sufficient amount of space for employees to have breaks and meals while maintaining a physical distance of 6 feet, arranging seating to have employees facing forward and not across from each other in eating and break settings;
- stagger employee break times to reduce the number of employees on break at any given time so that appropriate physical distancing of at least 6 feet may be maintained;
- limit persons in employee common areas (such as locker or break rooms, dining facilities, training or conference rooms) at any one time to the number of employees that can maintain a physical distance of 6 feet;
- conduct meetings and trainings or other gatherings of employees and management virtually (i.e., by phone or via teleconference);
- provide employees access to regular handwashing with soap, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes, including scheduling handwashing breaks as necessary, and ensure that common areas (including but not limited to break rooms, locker rooms, dining facilities, rest rooms, training or conference rooms) are cleaned on a regular basis, including between any shifts;
- provide and require that employees wear face coverings during their time at the business, except to the extent the employee is using break time to eat or drink, in accordance the Commonwealth’s Updated Order Requiring Universal Face Coverings (PDF), dated November 17, 2020, including any subsequent amendments;
- have a sufficient number of employees to perform all measures listed effectively and in a manner that protects the safety of the public and employees;
- have a sufficient number of personnel to control access, maintain order, and enforce physical distancing of at least 6 feet; and
- prohibit non-essential visitors from entering the premises of the business; make all employees aware of these required procedures by communicating them, either orally or in writing, in their native or preferred language, as well as in English or by a methodology that allows them to understand.
Contact Tracing: Where a business is aware of an exposure in the workplace, the employer must:
- identify employees and customers, to the extent possible, who were in close contact (within about 6 feet for about 15 minutes) with a person with COVID-19 from the period 48 hours before symptom onset (or 48 hours prior to test date if asymptomatic) to the time at which the patient isolated and, upon request, provide those names and contact information to the Department of Health or the local health department; and
- Promptly notify employees who were close contacts of any known exposure to COVID-19 at the business premises, consistent with applicable confidentiality laws.
Employee Isolation or Quarantine: If an employee becomes sick during the workday, the individual must be sent home immediately. An employee who has symptoms of COVID-19 before reporting to work should notify the employee’s supervisor and remain home. An employee who is a close contact of a person who is diagnosed with or tests positive for COVID-19 may not continue to work at an in-person business, and must quarantine in accordance with the direction of the Department of Health or the local health department. If an employee is diagnosed with or tests positive for COVID-19, the employee may no longer work at an in-person business, even if asymptomatic, and must isolate in accordance with the direction of the Department or a local health department.
Note that additional requirements apply to businesses that are open to the public.
When in doubt about the appropriate course of action, employers should consult with experienced human resources professionals and/or labor and employment counsel. For MEA members, the Hotline and a Member Legal Services attorney are available to provide this assistance.
Amy G. McAndrew, Esquire
Director of Legal and Compliance Services
MidAtlantic Employers’ Association
*This Alert is provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.