Frequently Asked Questions for Businesses Operating During the COVID-19 Disaster Emergency
Last updated June 17, 2020
Life-Sustaining Business Frequently Asked Questions
What businesses may maintain in-person operations based on the Red, Yellow and Green Phases of Reopening?
What categories of businesses must to continue to suspend in-person operations in counties in the Yellow Phase?
What type of businesses are considered “indoor recreation,” “health and wellness facilities,” and “entertainment,” and must continue to suspend in-person operations in the Yellow Phase?
What occupancy limits are applicable to my business in the various phases of reopening?
Under the Process to Reopen Pennsylvania, and the Business Guidance, different occupancy limits apply to businesses based upon the nature of their business and the county in which they are located.
In the Red Phase of Reopening, only life-sustaining businesses may operate. In the Yellow Phase of Reopening, business that may open are subject to an overall occupancy limit of 50% of the occupancy stated on their occupancy permit.
Certain businesses, such as movie theaters, gyms, arcades, and others as described above, may not conduct any in person operations in the Yellow Phase of reopening. In the Green Phase of reopening, businesses that were permitted to operate in the Yellow Phase may increase their capacity to 75% of the total occupancy stated on their occupancy permit, while businesses that were not permitted to open in the Yellow Phase, such as movie theaters, gyms, arcades, and others described above, may operate at 50% of the total occupancy stated on their occupancy permit.
In addition to these general limitations, gatherings and events, such as meetings, weddings, catered events, concerts, conferences, fairs, festivals, sporting events, movie showings or theater performances, and similar events occurring within these businesses are subject to specific conditions during each phase of reopening. Specifically, facilities and venues must limit the total number of individuals gathering at one time for any discrete gathering or event within the facility or venue.
In the Red Phase of reopening, such gatherings for a planned or spontaneous event are limited to 10 individuals.
In the Yellow Phase of reopening, such gatherings for a planned or spontaneous event are limited to 25 individuals for each discrete gathering or event within the facility or venue. In no event may the total number of individuals in the entire facility exceed 50% of the facility’s total maximum occupancy at any time.
In the Green Phase of reopening, such gatherings for a planned or spontaneous event are limited to 250 individuals for each discrete gathering or event within the facility or venue. At businesses that were permitted to open in the Yellow Phase of reopening, in no event may the total number of individuals in the entire facility exceed 75% of the facility’s total maximum occupancy at any time. At businesses that were not permitted to open in the Yellow Phase of reopening, in no event may the total number of individuals in the entire facility exceed 50% of the facility’s total maximum occupancy at any time.
Please note, regardless of phase, all facilities and venues must still enforce social distancing requirements, which may limit occupancy below the attendance limits noted above.
What is an “event or gathering?”
An event or gathering is a temporary grouping of individuals for defined purposes, that takes place over a limited timeframe, such as hours or days. For example, events and gatherings include fairs, festivals, concerts or shows and groupings that occur within larger, more permanent businesses, such as shows or performances within amusement parks, individual showings of movies on a single screen/auditorium within a multiplex, business meetings or conferences, or each party or reception within a multiroom venue. Such temporary events are subject to the lesser of the building occupancy limit or per-person limit (10, 25, or 250 depending upon phase) as set out above.
Does the 10, 25, 250 occupancy limit include staff and employees?
Yes. Businesses should include staff and employees when considering their occupancy limit or crowd gathering size.
If a business is classified as non-life-sustaining, but has the ability to operate remotely, must the business close down?
May professional sports teams resume in person activities?
Are religious institutions required to suspend to suspend in-person gatherings?
I am a manufacturer that wishes to manufacturer goods to assist in confronting this pandemic. What should I do?
Common Questions About Masks
Must my employees and customers continue to wear masks in the Green Phase of Reopening?
Yes. According to the Governor’s Green Phase order businesses must continue to follow the Order of the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health Directing Public Health Safety Measures for Businesses Permitted to Maintain In-person Operations.
Regarding customers, the Order states, “require all customers to wear masks while on premises, and deny entry to individuals not wearing masks, unless the business is providing medication, medical supplies, or food, in which case 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 2 years per CDC guidance) may enter the premises and are not required to provide documentation of such medical condition.”
Regarding employees, the Order states, “provide masks for employees to wear during their time at the business, and make it a mandatory requirement to wear masks while on the work site, except to the extent an employee is using break time to eat or drink, in accordance with the guidance from the Department of Health and the CDC. Employers may approve masks obtained or made by employees in accordance with Department of Health guidance.”
Does a disposable face shield suffice in lieu of a mask?
A disposable face shield would suffice in lieu of a mask. Employers may approve masks obtained or made by employees in accordance with guidance on homemade masks found on the Department of Health’s website.
If a customer refuses to wear a mask must they be turned away or be refused service?
Yes, except that if a business provides medication, medical supplies, or food, that business must offer another means for the customer to purchase goods if the customer is unable to wear a mask. Those means could include home delivery or contactless curbside pick-up.
Individuals who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition (including children under the age of 2 years per CDC guidance) may enter the premises and are not required to provide documentation of such medical condition.
If the customer is refused service, and if the business is not able to provide a mask, the business should consider providing information on mask making, distributing “how to” flyers, or sharing information about where masks can be purchased. Additionally, businesses should advise the customer that masks are required; tell the customer that only those who cannot wear a mask due to a medical conditions may enter the premises without a mask; and advise the customer that almost any face covering would be acceptable. If a customer is belligerent or aggressive, there is no expectation that an employee should force a customer to comply or put themselves in a dangerous situation.
How do businesses avoid confrontation with customers who do not wear a mask?
Businesses should consider how they would deal with a customer who may attempt to enter the business without a shirt or shoes, and may wish to react similarly. Businesses should consider giving customers resources on how to make their own mask or provide a mask.
Additionally, businesses should advise customers that masks are required while in the business; tell the customer that only persons who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition do not have to comply with the requirement to wear a mask; and advise the customer that almost any face covering would be acceptable. If a customer is belligerent or aggressive, employees need not force a customer to comply and should not put themselves in a dangerous situation.
As a manager, how do I handle an employee that refuses to wear a mask? Does the masking requirement mean I can refuse them entry?
Are masks required for operations where it would be unsafe to keep masks in place, or if an employee says they have anxiety and any mouth, nose covering can lead to panic attacks or other medical conditions?
Does someone working in a personal office need a mask at all times?
If social distancing can be maintained, can there be an exemption to the mandatory mask requirement?
Are masks required while driving for work?
Does the masking requirement apply to workers who are outdoors, and who engage in heavy physical activity, such as employee of solid waste companies and landscapers?
Is it acceptable for workers to remove cloth face coverings when high temperatures and humidity may create unsafe conditions for operations?
How should businesses comply while awaiting delivery of masks?
Must transit operators, bus drivers or others who operate vehicles wear masks?
Who is responsible for ensuring compliance with the masking requirement at a specific workplace?
Does the Commonwealth require a particular type of mask?
Are there recommendations on where employers can purchase masks for employees?
Do banks and financial institutions need to comply with the masking requirement if there are associated security concerns with face coverings?
The commonwealth’s masking requirement differs from the CDC guidance on masking, which requires masking only when employees cannot maintain social distancing?
Is there any plan to get information about safety requirements to employees so they can ask their employer to take the necessary steps to protect them?
Is there a code enforcement hotline for employees to call?
Is there a waiver process or exceptions to the Governor and Secretary of Health’s orders and guidance to promote worker and business safety?
Common Questions About Keeping Workers and Customers Safe
What should I do to keep employees safe?
When an employee has tested positive for COVID-19, what type of cleaning is required?
When an employee has tested positive for COVID 19 how long must a business wait before proceeding to t disinfect the workspace?
Often employees notify management of their pending or confirmed COIVD-19 case several days after they have been in the office or business, in such a case does a business still need to do additional cleaning?
Retail stores with multiple check out lanes are required to limit use to every other register and rotate registers and clean hourly. If a business adheres to the social distancing and best practices contained in the Business Guidance, can it open additional registers?
Employees are required to be sent home immediately if they become sick during the work day if exposed to a person who was a probable or confirmed case, and also requires the cleaning and disinfecting of the surfaces in that employee’s workspace. Must I wait to disinfect the workspace?
Can a life-sustaining business use a third-party vendor or third-party service for cleaning?
If a facility is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and can’t comply because it cannot open up doors and windows in a clean room environment, what should it do?
Does an entire facility need to be shut down in order to do appropriate cleaning?
Who is responsible for cleaning costs incurred in order to maintain compliance with the cleaning requirements of the Business Guidance and Department of Health Orders?
If a business is open to the public, are they required to provide public restrooms?
Common Questions about Social Distancing in the Workplace
Are building security desks required to have shields or barriers to separate guard staff?
If a company is staggering breaks, but not staggering shift start/stop times, would they then be required to implement those as well?
What are the social distancing guidelines for elevator usage?
Common Questions About Temperature Screenings
Businesses are required to check the temperature of employees upon discovery that the business has been exposed to a person who is a probable or confirmed COVID-19 case. Can these temperature checks be done by employees at home through self-screening?
Where should temperature screenings take place?
Are employers required to conduct temperature screening of employees who do not physically enter a building?
Is a building owner or management company required to take the temperatures of tenants?
Does the requirement to conduct temperature screenings only apply after an employer is aware of a potential or actual exposure?
Following an exposure “employees” are required to be screened. Does this mean that non-employees, such as contractors and delivery persons present at the location do not need to be screened?
An elevated temperature is just one symptom of COVID-19. Is an elevated temperature enough to send an employee home?
If an employee tests positive in a leased facility, what requirements are there in terms of notifying other entities that may occupy leased space?
If an employee tests positive in a leased facility, how does a business go about implementing temperature checks for staff that work in that leased facility, but do not work for the business (e.g. cleaning staff).
Is a building owner or management company required to take the temperatures of tenants?
If an employer discovers an employee with a confirmed case of COVID-19 has come into the business, is the employer required to institute a temperature check for that person to return to work following their leave period or does it require temperature screenings of all employees following the first confirmed case?
The Business Guidance provides guidelines for a person with a probable or confirmed case of COVID19. What is considered “probable”?
Do employees need to produce a doctor’s note to take leave or return to the office after being diagnosed with or suspected to have COVID-19?
Is it required that a medical professional administer the temperature screenings?
Do businesses have the authority to issue temperature checks for customers/the general public at a facility?
If someone arrives at work in one location and is temperature screened, then drives to another work facility, does the person have to temperature screen again?
If someone begins their workday in another state and drives into Pennsylvania, do they have to temperature check once they get to their work destination in Pennsylvania?
Is the requirement to conduct temperature screening applicable to an entire facility/campus or can it be limited to specific at-risk buildings or sections of a building where a probable or confirmed case was identified?
Do all employees who work in a building need to have their temperatures checked even if they weren’t exposed to the suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19?
Is there any specific guidance regarding the sourcing/procurement of thermometers?
Questions Relating to Applicability to Particular Sectors and Businesses
What restrictions apply to health care workers?
Do retailers need to designate specific shopping time for high-risk persons?
Does the Business Guidance apply to airports and freight rail operators?
Does the Business Guidance require transit riders to wear masks? What about riders participating in the Medical Assistance Transportation Program?
Do these restrictions apply to local governments and courthouses?
Do the provisions of the Business Guidance apply to state employees?
Does the Business Guidance apply to businesses that are closed to the general public, and in compliance with all CDC Guidelines?
Common Questions About Operation of Specific Businesses
Are childcare programs required to suspend in-person operations?
What types of service may retail food service businesses and restaurants offer in the Red, Yellow and Green Phases of Reopening?
May notary and title services maintain in-person operations?
May car dealerships maintain in-person operations?
May real estate businesses conduct in-person operations including showings, appraisals, inspections, final walk throughs and closings?
May I operate a Game of Skill in my business?
May in-person instruction be offered in Pennsylvania?
Are public bathing places regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and other community pools permitted to operate during the Governor’s phased reopening plan?
I am a housing or commercial construction contractor. What must I do to work?
May I complete my customer’s construction project?
Common Enforcement Questions
How will the Governor and Department of Health’s Orders and guidance be enforced? Will there be warnings before fines or other enforcement actions?
How should municipalities and local governments exercise their enforcement authority in supporting the Governor’s order?