Employees, customers to be required to wear masks inside essential Pennsylvania businesses, Wolf administration orders

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Thursday, April 16, 2020
Employees, customers to be required to wear masks inside essential Pennsylvania businesses, Wolf administration orders
Employees, customers to be required to wear masks in Pa. businesses as reported by Dann Cuellar during Action News at 11 on April 15, 2020.

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- The essential businesses that remain open in Pennsylvania amid the coronavirus pandemic are now ordered by the state to provide a number of protective measures for their employees starting Sunday evening, the Wolf administration announced.

The order, announced on Wednesday, includes a requirement that all workers at the essential businesses that are still open must wear a mask; the employer must provide or approve masks; and most customers who go inside those businesses must also wear a mask.

Businesses are ordered to deny entry to any customers who are not wearing a mask, 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 goods.

Exceptions include people who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition and children under two years old.

"We've had that for a week or two now, and I've made messages to my customers to tell them I strongly advise them to wear a scarf, a bandana or a mask whatever they can," said Jeff Brown of Fresh Grocer.

"I think, for the most part, customers have been coming in with masks anyway. I think this is something that a good portion of the public already wanted," added Dana Ward, the communications and public affairs manager for Acme Markets.

The order also requires businesses to stagger start and stop times for workers; provide sufficient space for breaks and meals to maintain social distancing; prohibit non-essential visitors, and more.

Employees and customers are now required to wear masks inside essential Pennsylvania businesses, the governor said.

The order, announced by Governor Tom Wolf, was signed by Secretary of Health Rachel Levine.

It goes into effect at 8 p.m. on Sunday, April 19.

RELATED: Governor Tom Wolf plans to veto Senate bill that would reopen some businesses

The state released the following list of protocols for businesses:

*Provide masks for employees to wear during their time at the business, and make it a mandatory requirement while at 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 this guidance;

*Stagger work start and stop times for employees when practical to prevent gatherings of large groups entering or leaving the premises at the same time;

*Provide sufficient space for employees to have breaks and meals while maintaining a social distance of 6 feet, including limiting the number of employees in common areas and setting up seating to have employees facing forward and not across from each other;

*Conduct meetings and training virtually. If a meeting must be held in person, limit the meeting to the fewest number of employees possible, not to exceed 10 employees at one time and maintain a social distance of 6 feet.

*Ensure that the facility has a sufficient number of employees to perform all measures listed effectively and in a manner that ensures the safety of the public and employees;

*Ensure that the facility has a sufficient number of personnel to control access, maintain order, and enforce social distancing of at least 6 feet;

*Prohibit non-essential visitors from entering the premises of the business;

*Ensure that all employees who do not speak English as their first language are aware of procedures communicating the procedures, either orally or in writing, in their native or preferred language.

Upon discovery of an exposure to a person who is a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19, businesses are also ordered to implement temperature screenings before employees enter the business prior to the start of work and send any employee home who has an elevated temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

*Sick employees should follow CDC-recommended steps. Employees should not return to work until the CDC criteria to discontinue home isolation are met, in consultation with the health care providers and state and local health departments. Employers are encouraged to implement liberal paid time off for employees who are on home isolation.

Upon an exposure, businesses are also ordered to do the following:

*Close off and ventilate areas visited by that individual;

*Wait a minimum of 24 hours, or as long as practical, before beginning cleaning and disinfection;

*Clean and disinfect all spaces, especially commonly used rooms and shared electronic equipment;

*Identify and notify employees who were in close contact with that individual (within about 6 feet for about 10 minutes); and

*Ensure that the business has a sufficient number of employees to perform these protocols effectively and immediately.

In addition to the social distancing, mitigation and cleaning protocols, businesses that serve the public within a building or defined area are ordered to implement the following, based on the size of the building and number of employees:

*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 goods, except individuals who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition (including children the age of 2 years) may enter the premises without having to provide medical documentation;

*Conduct business with the public by appointment only and, to the extent that this is not feasible, limit occupancy to no greater than 50 percent of the number stated on their certificate of occupancy as necessary to reduce crowding in the business and at check-out and counter lines in order to maintain a social distance of 6 feet, and place signage throughout each site to mandate social distancing for both customers and employees;

*Alter hours of business so that the business has sufficient time to clean or to restock or both;

*Install shields or other barriers at registers and check-out areas to physically separate cashiers and customers or take other measures to ensure social distancing of customers from check-out personnel, or close lines to maintain a social distance between of 6 feet between lines;

*Encourage use of online ordering by providing delivery or outside pick-up;

*Designate a specific time for high-risk and elderly persons to use the business at least once every week if there is a continuing in-person customer-facing component;

*n businesses with multiple check-out lines, only use every other register, or fewer. After every hour, rotate customers and employees to the previously closed registers. Clean the previously open registers and the surrounding area, including credit card machines, following each rotation;

*Schedule handwashing breaks for employees at least every hour; and

*Where carts and handbaskets are available, assign an employee to wipe down carts and handbaskets before they become available to a new customer.

Failure to comply with these requirements will result in enforcement action that could include citations, fines, or license suspensions. Compliance with the order will be enforced beginning Sunday, April 19 at 8:00 PM.

The governor has directed the following state agencies and local officials to enforce orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic to the full extent of the law:

*Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board

*Department of Health

*Department of Agriculture

*Department of Labor and Industry

*Pennsylvania State Police

Local officials, using their resources to enforce closure orders within their jurisdictions

"It is vital that we require businesses to practice these common-sense and scientifically proven safety protocols for the protection of workers and the public at-large. And that is what this order does," said state Senator Tina Tartaglione, Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Labor and Industry Committee. "Many of the measures included in this order were part of legislation that I proposed. I applaud this swift action by Secretary Levine and Governor Wolf to implement these much needed protocols."

This order follows another order by Dr. Levine providing direction for maintaining and cleaning buildings for businesses authorized to maintain in-person operations under her and Governor Tom Wolf's life-sustaining business orders announced March 19.

Governor Tom Wolf also recommends that Pennsylvanians wear a mask any time they leave their homes for life-sustaining reasons.



Pennsylvania health officials on Wednesday reported 63 new deaths of people with COVID-19, raising the statewide toll to 647.

More than 1,100 additional people tested positive for the new coronavirus, for a new statewide total of nearly 26,500, according to the state Department of Health.

The number of new virus infections has declined in recent days, and state Health Secretary Dr. Levine has said "the curve has been flattened significantly" after weeks of social distancing.

State officials say cases are present in all 67 counties.

"COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise in Pennsylvania, and even though the daily increases are not exponential, now is not the time to become complacent," Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said Tuesday. "We must continue to stay home to protect ourselves, our families, our community."

A county-by-county breakdown is available here.

There are 111,094 patients who have tested negative to date. Of the patients who have tested positive to date the age breakdown is as follows:

Less than 1% are aged 0-4;

Nearly 1% are aged 5-12;

1% are aged 13-18;

6% are aged 19-24;

40% are aged 25-49;

Nearly 29% are aged 50-64; and

22% are aged 65 or older.

Most of the patients hospitalized are aged 65 or older, and most of the deaths have occurred in patients 65 or older.

There have been no pediatric deaths to date. More data is available here.

Gov. Tom Wolf closed schools and nonessential businesses and ordered people to stay home.

The first state prison inmate to die of COVID-19 was identified as a client of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, a legal group that works to exonerate people who say they were wrongly convicted.

Rudolph Sutton, 67, an inmate at Phoenix state prison in Montgomery County, died April 8. He was serving a life sentence for murder.

Fourteen inmates at Phoenix have contracted the virus, according to the Wolf administration.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.