News & Events

Pennsylvania Secretary Of Department Of Health Announces New Requirements For Businesses With In-Person Operations

The Pennsylvania Secretary of the Department of Health has issued new requirements for businesses that are allowed to operate under the Governor’s Order regarding life-sustaining businesses.  The Order goes into effect immediately, and is enforceable as of 8:00 p.m. on April 19, 2020.

Requirements For All Businesses Authorized To Have In-Person Operations, Except Health Care Providers

All businesses must follow CDC guidance and previously issued Orders regarding cleaning, disinfecting, maintenance and security matters.  In addition, new requirements for all businesses authorized to maintain in-person operations, other than health care providers, must implement the following procedures and protocols, as applicable.

Businesses must establish protocols to be implemented if the business has been exposed to a person who has a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19, to include closing off areas visited by that person, opening outside doors and windows, and using ventilation fans to increase air circulation in the area.  After a minimum of 24 hours, cleaning and disinfecting should occur in all areas, including offices, common areas (including bathrooms, break rooms, conference or training rooms), and shared electronic equipment used by the ill person, focusing on frequently touched areas.

Businesses must identify employees who were in close contact (defined as within about six feet for about ten minutes), from the period 48 hours before the onset of symptoms to the time that the individual was isolated.  If the person remains asymptomatic, he or she should adhere to the CDC guidelines issued April 8, 2020 about implementing safety practices for critical infrastructure workers.

If an employee becomes sick at work, he or she must be sent home immediately and workspace surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected.  Information about employees in close contact (as defined above) must be compiled, including others who work within six feet of the employee.  These employees need to be notified of possible exposure, consistent with confidentiality laws.

If there may have been an exposure, businesses must implement temperature screening before employees enter the business to start work.  Employees with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher must be sent home.  Employees waiting to be screened must maintain social distancing.

Employees with symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath) should notify their supervisor and stay home.  Sick employees should follow CDC-recommended steps and not return to work until the CDC criteria to discontinue home isolation are met.  Employers are encouraged to be flexible about paid time off for these employees.

Businesses are required to stagger work start and stop times when practicable to prevent large groups from entering or exiting the premises at the same time, and stagger break times to allow for social distancing.  Sufficient space needs to be provided for employees to have breaks and meals while maintaining social distancing, and the area arranged so that all seating faces front, rather than having employees sit across from each other.  The number of employees gathering in common areas, such as locker rooms, break or dining facilities, training or conference rooms, must be limited to the number of employees that can be in the area while maintaining social distancing of at least six feet.

Similarly, meetings should be conducted virtually when possible.  If a meeting must be held in person, the number of people needs to be limited to the fewest possible, not to exceed ten employees, and social distancing must be observed.

Businesses must provide employees access to regular handwashing with soap, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes and ensure that all common areas are cleaned on a regular basis, including between shifts.

Businesses must provide masks for employees to use and make it mandatory that they are used at all times at work, except when the employee is eating or drinking while on break, in accordance with Department of Health and CDC guidance.  Employers may approve masks made or obtained by employees, in accordance with Department of Health guidance.

Businesses must prohibit non-essential visitors from entering its premises.

The business must make sure it has enough employees to execute the above protocols, including cleaning, controlling access, and enforcing social distancing.

Businesses are responsible for making sure that all employees are aware of these required procedures, by oral or written communication in the employees’ native language as well as in English.

Businesses Serving The Public In A Building Or Defined Area

With respect to businesses that serve the public in a building or defined area, additional measures are required.  Where it is feasible, business should be conducted by appointment only.  Where that it not feasible, businesses must limit occupancy to no more than 50% of the number listed on the applicable certificate of occupancy, and must maintain a social distance of six feet at checkout and counter lines, with signs throughout each site to require social distancing for customers and employees.

Businesses should alter hours as needed to have time to clean and restock, and should encourage online orders by providing delivery and pick-up options.

Businesses must install shields or other barriers at registers and checkout areas or take other steps to ensure that customers are separated from checkout personnel, and close lines to maintain a social distance of six feet between lines.  Thus, at most, only every other register can be used, and after every hour, customers and employees must be rotated to the previously unused registers.  Registers, surrounding areas, and credit card machines must be cleaned after each rotation.

Businesses must schedule handwashing breaks for employees at least once per hour.

Businesses with shopping carts or baskets must assign an employee to wipe down carts and baskets before they become available to each customer as they enter the building.

Businesses must designate a specific time for high-risk and elderly individuals to use the business at least once a week, if the business is continuing to have customers on site.

Businesses must require all customers to wear masks and deny entry to anyone not wearing masks, unless the business is providing medication, medical supplies or food, in which case they must provide alternative methods of pickup and delivery of these goods.  Individuals who cannot wear masks because of a medical condition (including children under age two, pursuant to CDC guidance) may enter the premises, and need not provide documentation of their medical condition.

All businesses covered by this Order must ensure that they have sufficient personnel to carry out the requirements of this Order.

What Does This Mean For You?  If your business currently is open as a non-health care life-sustaining business, you need to follow this Order and implement these procedures and protocols or face potential fines.  If you have questions about this Order or any other employment law issue, please contact S. Whitney Rahman at or (717) 509-7237, Grace C. Nguyen Bond at or (717) 509-7226, or Jill M. Laskowitz at or (717) 509-7261.

**This update is provided for informational purposes only and
should not be construed as legal advice or as creating an
attorney-client relationship where one does not already exist.**