The White House has issued non-binding Guidelines for “Opening Up America Again”. The Guidelines strongly encourage states to authorize reopening only after objective data suggests COVID-19 infections have decreased to an acceptable level and hospitals are not overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. The Guidelines further encourage states to authorize businesses to reopen in three phases. During each phase, states should monitor various metrics, such as new confirmed COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, to ensure reopening has not triggered a resurgence of COVID-19 infections. Assuming no resurgence at a given phase, states would permit businesses to progress to the subsequent reopening phase. The Guidelines also outline employer responsibilities discussed below. The U.S. Center for Disease Control (“CDC”) also continues to provide non-binding guidance related to COVID-19 quarantine, isolation, and related issues and employers should consider that guidance in developing protocols for reopening their businesses.
The Guidelines identify both specific and general employer “responsibilities” to ensure safe re-openings. During all phases, employers should: 1) implement policies to address (a) social distancing and protective equipment, (b) temperature checks, (c) testing, isolating, and contact tracing, (d) sanitation, (e) use and disinfection of common and high-traffic areas, and (f) business travel; 2) not allow employees with symptoms of COVID-19 to physically return to work until cleared by a medical provider; and 3) have a process in place for workplace contact tracing following an employee’s positive test for COVID-19. The Guidelines provide additional specific guidance during each phase of the re-openings, including information directed toward specific industries.
In addition to the White House guidance, states and localities have many specific requirements, which in some instances are also industry based. General concepts include health screening questions, mandatory or suggested temperature taking, postings, social distancing (including customer requirements in a retail setting), sanitation, face coverings and procedures for handling employees who do become ill. Please consult Jackson Lewis’s COVID-19 Advisor for such requirements.