COVID-19 Guidance for Businesses
COVID-19 Guidance for Businesses
Issued May 4, 2020, last updated November 23, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough. But Pennsylvanians have proven that together, we’re tougher.
We’ve seen the positive actions of our businesses, communities, and neighbors flatten the curve. Our united efforts in the face of this global public health crisis is working.
As our communities bounce back, all of us have an important role to play in maintaining our public health and safety.
This guide includes the basics our businesses and workers need to safely get back to work. As you reopen, you will need to follow all federal, state, and local laws and regulations.
COVID Mitigation in Pennsylvania
As part of every mitigation effort, we must:
- Wear masks indoors and outdoors if you are away from your home.
- Keep your distance from those you don’t live with and avoid crowds.
- Keep our physical distance of six feet or more.
- Wash our hands frequently for at least 20 seconds.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces often.
Read more about current mitigation measures in this section, and make sure to check out the COVID-19 Guidance and Resources page for more details.
Current Measures in Place
When put to the test, we are proving our resilience. But we aren’t going back to the way things were before. Now is the time to stay alert so we can keep COVID-19 contained.
Effective 11/23/2020, Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced new targeted mitigation measures to help stop the rise in COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania.
- General safety rules are still in place. Keep wearing your mask to enter a business, stay six feet apart, and follow all the general health and safety rules as before. This is our new normal.
- Gathering limitations are still in place. Effective 10/9/2020, maximum occupancy for indoor and outdoor events is determined using the maximum occupancy calculator. Schools and most childcare centers must still follow the Department of Education rules for operating. Nursing homes and group care facilities still have visitor restrictions. Prisons and hospitals can decide their own visitor policies for each facility.
- All businesses can reopen. Telework must continue unless impossible. All in-person businesses may operate at 75% occupancy, except where noted. Businesses must follow all the worker and building safety requirements for employers. Remember to check the COVID-19 Guidance and Resources page for more details.
There are still restrictions for businesses that work with the public. You must limit occupancy if your business is in one of the following categories:
- Restaurants and bars can open indoor dining, up to 25% occupancy or up to 50% occupancy with self-certification
- Indoor recreation can have up to 50% occupancy, but appointments recommended and fitness facilities are directed to prioritize outdoor fitness activities (including gyms, indoor malls, bowling, arcades, indoor sports, go-kart, pool halls, and similar facilities)
- Health and wellness can have up to 50% occupancy, but customers can enter by appointment only (this applies to spas, barbershops, hair and nail salons, saunas, tattoo parlors, massage therapists and other personal care service businesses)
- Entertainment may have up to 50% occupancy (like casinos, theaters, zoos, museums, historical sites, amusement parks, and other entertainment venues). Any events within these venues, such as individual performances, screenings, shows, showtimes, lectures, etc., must abide by the Department of Health’s event occupancy calculator.
You play a critical role in protecting your workers, customers, suppliers, and the general public.
Telework must continue unless impossible. All businesses with in-person operations should follow the building and business safety guidelines issued by the PA Secretary of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
These guidelines may change over time, so be sure to check back for updates. All federal, state, and local laws and regulations still apply.
Make sure you know the symptoms of COVID-19. If you or your workers have any of these symptoms, stay home. If anyone comes down with symptoms while at work, send them home immediately. Follow your plan for handling cases of COVID-19.
Symptoms of COIVD-19 include:
- Fever. Anyone with a temperature 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher should not be at work.
- Chills. Including repeated shaking with chills.
- Muscle pain or body aches.
- Headache or confusion.
- Difficulty staying awake or waking up.
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. May have bluish lips or face.
- Congestion or runny nose.
- Sore throat.
- New loss of taste or smell.
- Nausea or vomiting.
Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Not everyone who has COVID-19 will have bad symptoms. Some may only have mild symptoms or show no signs of being sick. The virus spreads through the natural moisture (respiratory droplets) we breathe out when we talk, cough, or sneeze.
To reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, limit the chances for infection. We encourage you to keep teleworking where possible. If telework or remote work is not an option, here are the things you need to do to open and operate safely.
- Everyone must wear a mask. That includes workers and customers. Remember, my mask protects you and your mask protects me.
- Put up signs about your safety measures. Share the steps you are taking to protect everyone’s health and safety. See the section with printable business safety signs available for download.
- Limit crowds. Have delivery or pick-up options whenever possible. Offer appointments if you must have customers in your space. If you can’t schedule appointments, limit the number of people to 50% occupancy.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. This includes things like doors, counters, shared equipment or tools, common areas like waiting rooms, breakrooms, bathrooms, and more. If people touch something a lot, clean it a lot. For lower traffic areas, clean between shifts and any other times you clean based on your usual routine.
- Protect your workers. Provide workers with masks. See the section on sourcing personal protective equipment (PPE). Train your workers about symptoms of COVID-19 and what to do if they feel sick. Make sure they understand the new safety measures everyone must follow. Screen workers for symptoms before they start work. Send home anyone with a temperature 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Schedule hourly hand-washing breaks. Place workstations at least six feet apart. Make sure there is enough room for physical distancing in breakrooms and common areas. For workers dealing with customers, make sure there are physical barriers or shields between them and the public.
- Keep groups of workers small. Stagger shift start and stop times to keep groups from entering and exiting at the same time. Do the same for scheduled breaks. Hold meetings and trainings virtually. If you must meet in-person, limit the number of attendees. Stay six feet apart and don’t have more than 10 people in a physical meeting. Read the section on gatherings and events for rules about groups.
- Staff up appropriately. Have a Pandemic Safety Officer in charge of COVID-19 safety. Assign enough workers handle new safety tasks including wellness screenings, cleaning, managing crowd sizes, maintaining order and physical distances, and security.
- Have a plan for dealing with COVID-19 cases. Make sure workers know the steps to take if exposed to someone with a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19. See the section on handling cases of COVID-19.
Printable Business Safety Signs
You must print, sign, and post the COVID-19 Safety Procedures for Businesses near all public entrances and in worker common areas. Signs should be easy to spot. Two sizes are available for download. You need to only hang one version of the sign, so use the size that works best for your printer.
One is for standard legal-sized paper (8.5×14 inches) and only uses one piece of paper.
The second option is for letter-sized paper (8.5×11 inches) and uses two pieces of paper.
Sourcing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Providing PPE to your workers helps protect their health and safety. PPE can include:
- Face shields
- Hand sanitizer
- Medical gowns
- Cleaning supplies and disinfectants
The high demand for PPE can make it hard to find. To help, we have a list of PPE manufacturers and suppliers in Pennsylvania.
Gatherings & Events
Ask yourself if you really must meet in-person. If you are planning a gathering or event, you need to follow the rules for group sizes, keep physical distances of at least six feet, wear a mask, and follow restrictions on maximum occupancy.
Keep in mind that there are many kinds of gathering and events. These could include meetings, trainings, concerts, fairs, festivals, sporting events, movies, or theater performances. Be careful to keep all the general health and safety rules in mind as you prepare for group activities.
These rules don’t apply to religious gatherings held by churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, or other places of worship. Though we do encourage religious institutions to follow mask wearing, physical distancing, and other general health and safety measures.
Handling Cases of COVID-19
Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should get appropriate medical care. If symptoms are:
- Mild. Stay home or go home immediately. Rest. Drink fluids. Take acetaminophen to reduce fever. If symptoms get worse, call your healthcare provider.
- Severe. For serious symptoms, including a fever above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, call your healthcare provider. If you need to find a healthcare provider, call 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258).
- If an emergency, call 911. Get emergency medical help if you have trouble breathing, chest pain or pressure, confusion, inability to stay awake or wake up, or bluish lips or face.
If your business has exposure to a likely or confirmed case of COVID-19, take the following steps:
- Keep others out of the areas used or visited by the sick person.
- Clean and disinfect. Wait at least 24 hours (or for as long as practical) before cleaning and disinfecting the area visited or used by the sick person. Do the same for all shared areas and equipment used by the sick person.
- Open windows and doors to let air in. Use ventilation fans to help circulate air.
- Identify and notify workers who were in close contact with the sick person. Close contact means within six feet for 10 minutes or more up to 48 hours before the first symptoms appeared. Tell workers who have had close contact with someone with possible symptoms of COVID-19. If they develop symptoms, send them home.
Workers with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 can return to work after meeting all three requirements set by the CDC guidelines:
- 3 days with no fever
- Symptoms improved
- 10 days since first symptoms
Consider changing your normal leave policies to allow for liberal paid time off for workers staying home due to:
- Having a possible or confirmed case of COVID-19.
- Being at high risk. Adults 65 years or older and anyone with serious medical conditions are at higher risk for getting severely sick from COVID-19.
Given that this is a critical time for mitigation efforts and orders to be followed, the Wolf Administration is stepping up enforcement on the following orders:
- Out of State Travel
- Business Safety, including telework, occupancy, cleaning, social distancing
- Restaurant Mitigation, including occupancy, masking, social distancing, self-certification
- Gathering Limits
- School Attestation and Mitigation
Orders are enforceable as a disease control measure under the Disease Prevention and Control Law. Citations may be written under the Administrative Code of 1929 71 P. S. § 1409 and/or the Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955 35 P.S. § 521.20(a). The decision whether to issue a warning or a citation is made on a case-by-case basis and determined by the unique circumstances of each encounter.
Persons who fail to comply with an order may be fined between $25 and $300 dollars.
Enforcement agencies include the Pennsylvania State Police, local law enforcement, personnel from the departments of Agriculture and State, and PA Liquor Control Board stores who interact with visitors.
Workers reporting to in-person jobs are at risk for catching and spreading COVID-19. The good news is, you can do a lot to reduce your risk. By following all health and safety measures at work, you’ll be helping to protect your own health and safety. Not to mention the health and safety of your coworkers, suppliers, and customers.
If you’re looking for more specific information, be sure to check out the COVID-19 Guidance and Resources page.
Worker Protections & Responsibilities
Your health and safety are a top priority. Your employer is responsible for protecting you, but you also have a few responsibilities too. You should take a few minutes to:
- Learn about COVID-19 symptoms. Tell your supervisor if you are sick. Stay home if you have any symptoms.
- Read the new Safety Checklist all businesses must follow.
- Wear a mask. It really reduces the risk of spreading or catching the virus. If you’re not in healthcare or a first responder, a fabric or cloth mask is enough. You can learn more about masks from the PA Department of Health’s mask guidance.
- Keep your physical distance. Stay at least six feet from others. If you must be closer than six feet, make sure your employer has physical barriers or shields in place.
- Wash your hands frequently. Scrub your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer if you can’t get to a sink.
- Keep high-touch surfaces and equipment clean. Help disinfect common areas, shared spaces, and shared equipment.
Reporting Health & Safety Violations
You can report a workplace health and safety violation related to COVID-19 by contacting your local health department or law enforcement agency.
You can also file a public health complaint about a business by using the Department of Health COVID-19 Complaint Form. Public health complaint categories include:
- Employees or customers not wearing masks.
- Business does not have protocol for positive or probable cases.
- Business does not screen employees for symptoms.
- Business is not cleaning high-touch surfaces.
- Business is not creating a safe environment for customers.
- Business is not allowing employees to telework when appropriate.
- Employees not providing or allowing cloth masks.
- Equipment not sanitized.
- Not allowed to stay home when sick or employees coming to work when sick.
- Social distancing not being practiced.
Unemployment Compensation (UC)
Unemployment Compensation (UC) benefits provide roughly half of your full-time weekly income up to $572 per week. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made changes to the regular Unemployment Compensation program, including:
- Suspending the Waiting Week. Usually you can’t receive unemployment benefits during your first week of unemployment. Now you can.
- Temporarily waiving the Work Search and Work Registration requirements for everyone claiming UC. Right now, you do not have to prove you applied or searched for a new job to keep receiving UC benefits. You also do not have to register with PACareerLink.gov.
The federal CARES Act expands UC benefits through several new programs:
- Gig-economy workers, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals who usually would not qualify for UC can apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
- You can receive up to 39 weeks of UC benefits. That includes 26 weeks of regular UC benefits, plus 13 weeks of extra coverage through the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program.