New Face Covering and Travel Restrictions Issued
On November 17th, the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health issued a series of COVID-19 announcements, including a new Traveler Testing Order and a Strengthened Masking Order. These orders, which impact every Pennsylvanian’s work and home life, are summarized below.
Traveler Testing Order
The Traveler Testing Order, which was issued “as a protection against the spread of disease through our holiday season,” requires anyone traveling into or returning to Pennsylvania, whether from any other State or internationally, to quarantine for 14-days upon entering Pennsylvania unless the person produces evidence of a negative COVID-19 test taken within the 72-hours prior to entering Pennsylvania. Currently, there are only four limited exceptions to the testing order: (1) business travel, (2) travel for medical reasons, (3) military personnel traveling pursuant to orders, and (4) people travelling through Pennsylvania to another destination.
Strengthened Masking Order
The Strengthened Masking Order dictates when face coverings must be worn, whether outdoors or indoors, and whether in a business or private place. Under the Order, the following masking rules apply:
- Indoors: Unless an exception applies, a person must wear a masks indoors at all times when in the same space as persons who are not in the person’s household, regardless of physical distance.
- Outdoors: People who are not members of the same household must wear masks outside when they cannot maintain sustained physical distance of six feet from each other.
- Business Obligations: The Order expressly states that businesses (and schools) (1) must require all people wear a face covering, including employees and customers, and take reasonable steps to enforce the face covering requirement; (2) mitigate or eliminate employee or customer exposure to people who cannot or refuse to wear a face covering; (3) post prominent signage regarding the face covering mandate; and (4) provide reasonable accommodations to people with a condition that makes it unreasonable to maintain a face covering.
- Exceptions: As a preliminary matter, the Order states that all alternatives to wearing a mask, including the use of alternative face coverings, i.e. a face shield, should be exhausted before an individual is excepted from the Order. However, there are six exceptions to the mask requirement: (1) when wearing the mask while working creates an unsafe condition (under government or workplace safety guidelines); (2) if wearing a mask causes a medical condition or exacerbates an existing one; (3) when necessary to confirm a person’s identity; (4) when obtaining service that requires temporary removal of the mask, i.e. dentistry; (5) when “working alone” and isolated from interaction with other people, with little or no expectation of in-person interaction; and (6) where communicating with a hearing-impaired or disabled person and the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
Examples of “working alone” under the Order include: a lone worker inside the cab of a piece of construction equipment; a person alone inside an office with four walls and a door; a person alone in a cubicle with a door or entryway and three walls high enough to block the breathing zone of all people walking by, where the worker’s activity will not require anything to come inside of the worker’s workspace; and an employee alone in a field or open area without anticipated contact with others.
- Events or Gatherings. The Order amends the Secretary’s prior Order regarding events or gatherings. Under the amended Order, venues must require attendees to maintain six feet physical distance, require attendees wear face masks, and implement other mitigation practices.
The Orders will impact the personal and work lives of many. As the Orders place more stringent restrictions, individuals are more likely to push back. If you have any questions regarding the Travel Testing Order, what reasonable accommodations are required under the Strengthened Masking Order, or any other compliance matter, please contact a MacDonald Illig attorney for advice.