Philadelphia, Pa. (April 21, 2020) -In a further attempt to stem the spread of COVID-19, Pennsylvania now requires those businesses that are considered life-sustaining and therefore permitted to continue operating - other than healthcare providers - to follow additional social distancing, mitigation, and cleaning protocols. Under the new requirements, specific steps are called for in the event that the business is exposed to a person who is either a probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19. Specifically, the business must:

  1. Close off areas visited by the person;
  2. Open outside doors and windows and use ventilation fans to increase air circulation;
  3. Wait a minimum of 24 hours, or as long as practicable, before beginning cleaning and disinfecting;
  4. Ensure that all common areas, including employee break rooms, conference or training rooms, and dining facilities, are cleaned and disinfected;
  5. Ensure that shared electronic equipment, such as tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, and ATM machines used by the person are cleaned and disinfected.

Additionally, businesses must attempt to identify employees who were in close contact, which is defined as within six feet for about 10 minutes, with a person with a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19. Businesses must notify, consistent with applicable confidentiality laws, their employees who were close contacts of any known exposure to COVID-19. Business should not, however, name the employees who have COVID-19.

Further, in the event a business is exposed to a person who has either a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19, the business must implement temperature screening before an employee enters the business or starts work. Employees who have an elevated temperature or fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher must be sent home.

In an effort to ensure social distancing requirements, the new protocols require that businesses:

  1. 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;
  2. Stagger break times to reduce the number of employees on break at any given time so appropriate social distancing of at least six feet may be followed;
  3. Limit the number of employees in common areas (locker rooms, break rooms, dining facilities, training or conference rooms) at any one time to the number of employees that can maintain a social distance of six feet;
  4. Limit in-person meetings to the fewest number of employees possible, not to exceed 10 employees, and maintain a social distance of six feet;
  5. Provide employees with masks to wear, and require that employees wear the masks while on the work site, except when an employee is using break time to eat or drink;
  6. Prohibit non-essential visitors from entering the business premises; and
  7. Ensure that all employees are made aware of the required procedures by communicating them either orally or in writing, in the employees' native or preferred language, as well as in English.

There are also specific protocols for businesses that serve the public. Those protocols include:

  1. Conducting business by appointment only and, if that is not feasible, limiting occupancy to no more than 50% of the number stated on the Certificate of Occupancy for the premises;
  2. Maintaining six feet of social distancing at check-out and counter lines;
  3. Placing signage throughout the site to mandate social distancing for customers and employees;
  4. Altering the hours of operation of businesses to ensure there is sufficient time to clean and/or restock the business;
  5. Installing shields or other barriers at registers and check-out areas to physically separate cashiers and customers or take other measures to social distancing between customers and check-out personnel;
  6. Only using every other register in businesses with multiple check-out lines and rotating customers and employees to the previously closed registers every hour;
  7. Scheduling hand washing breaks for employees at least every hour;
  8. Assigning an employee to wipe down carts and hand baskets before they are made available to customers entering the business;
  9. Providing delivery or pick-up options to encourage online orders;
  10. Designating a specific time for elderly and high-risk people to use the business at least once every week;
  11. Requiring all customers to wear masks while on the premises and denying entry to individuals not wearing masks, unless the business is providing medication, medical supplies or food and, in those cases, the business must provide alternative methods of pick-up or delivery of such goods. However, individuals who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition, including children under the age of two, may enter the premises and are not required to provide documentation of the medical condition.

Originally published 22 April, 2020

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