Pennsylvania Department of Health Implements New COVID-19 Mitigation Efforts
By: Leah K. Sell, Esq.
Pennsylvania Ordered to Mask Up and Test After Travelling
UPDATE: The Allegheny County Health Department issued a stay-at home and stop social gatherings public health ADVISORY on November 18, 2020. This advisory is not an Order, so there is no force of law, but its elevated from regular recommendations. The Advisory includes that residents should stay-at home and only leave to go to work, school, medical care or for essentials, such as groceries. The Advisory also encourages residents not to have guests or gatherings, even in their homes, and specifically includes the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday.
On November 17, 2020, The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) issued new mitigation efforts to help combat rising daily positive test results and hospitalization rates involving COVID-19. In addition to the Travel and Masking Orders, the DOH also issued a memorandum aimed at acute care facilities regarding care expectations and recommendations for colleges and universities concerning testing as students prepare for the holidays.
Effective November 20, 2020, any person traveling into or traveling to return to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, regardless of point of origin of travel, will be required to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72-hours prior to entering the Commonwealth.
Those travelers who do not have a negative COVID-19 test within the 72-hour window, including those who are waiting for results, refuse to get tested or are unable to be tested, will be required to self-quarantine at their destination for 14-days upon arrival in the Commonwealth.
Travelers may leave quarantine to obtain testing or necessary medical treatment. If a traveler receives a negative test result in the 14-day period, they may end the travel quarantine. Anyone who has a positive COVID-19 test result must self-isolate per agency guidance. Travelers will be responsible for obtaining testing and for the cost of testing.
There will be exemptions for those who commute to and from the Commonwealth for work, those who travel for medical reasons, military personnel on official orders, and for those who are only in transit through the Commonwealth to another destination. Even those excepted from travel testing must still follow mask and social distancing protocols.
Businesses and employers should review and update their travel policies for both employees and visitors. Those who ask “screening questions” may want to add an inquiry about an individual’s travel outside the Commonwealth in the past 14 days and their compliance with the DOH’s Travel Order.
Employers should take time to review these new travel requirements, especially with those employees who have planned leave. If an employee has travel plans, employers should establish if the employee will be subject to the new Order and plan accordingly. Leave for quarantine or isolation, including that under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, may be required.
The Travel Order is in addition to all existing DOH Orders and other agency guidance, testing, quarantine, or isolation may be required or modified based on other circumstances.
The previous July 15, 2020, Universal Face Covering Order was rescinded and replaced by the new Order which goes into effect on November 18, 2020 and strengthens the requirements for when masks must be worn and provides new definitions.
The new Order requires that face coverings be worn at all times (i) when indoors, this includes times when people are able to socially distance, and (ii) when outdoors and social distancing is not possible or predictable.
The Order requiring face coverings at all times indoors does not apply to one’s own home with individuals from their own household, but it does apply to being in other people’s homes or when with others not from their household when indoors (or outside if not socially distanced). The Order also requires a facial covering when outside if waiting for transportation or waiting in another public area, regardless of the ability to social distance.
Exceptions do exist for the Order and include when “working alone,” which is now a defined term meaning “when a person is isolated from interaction with other people with little or no expectation of in-person interruption.” Examples of working alone now include, “A lone worker inside a cubicle with three (3) walls and a door or entryway, with walls high enough to block the breathing zone of all people walking by, and the worker’s activity will not require anyone to come inside of the worker’s workspace.”
Other exceptions to wearing a face covering include, but are not limited to, medical conditions, safety risk in operating equipment or executing a task, and situations that require removal of the face covering, such as dental work.
The Order specifically obligates businesses and employers to ensure that everyone (clients, customers, visitors, employees) comply with face covering requirements. Employers are obligated to mitigate an employee’s exposure to those who do not wear face coverings. Businesses are encouraged to accommodate those who cannot wear a face covering by offering face shields or for those open to the public, to provide alternative services that do not require entry and exposure. Additionally, the Order states that Venues must have attendees comply with social distancing and facial covering requirements.
In light of this new Order, businesses and employers should review and update their current COVID-19 policies to ensure compliance, including new definitions and examples. When updating and considering requirements, accommodations, and mitigation, businesses and employers should be mindful of anti-discrimination requirements and provisions, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. Adequate posting of signage regarding face coverings is also required under the new Order.
If you have any questions regarding COVID-19 mitigation requirements for Pennsylvania businesses, or any other employment-related legal issue, please contact Leah K. Sell.
Leah Sell is an Associate with Leech Tishman, and a member of the firm’s Employment & Labor, Corporate, Cannabis and LaunchPad Practice Groups. She is based in the firm’s Pittsburgh office and can be reached at 412.261.1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leech Tishman’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/leechtishman
Leech Tishman’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/LeechTishman
Leech Tishman’s Company Page on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/leech-tishman