Governor Wolf has unveiled further details about his administration’s plan to reopen the Pennsylvania economy, as hopes persist that the pandemic is losing steam. The administration will use a “three-phase matrix” to determine when counties and/or regions around the Commonwealth are ready to begin easing restrictions on work, congregate settings, and social interactions.
The administration will base its decision to move a county or region from one phase of reopening to the next based a variety of economic and public health data. These will include the incidence rate of COVID-19 per capita; the adequacy of testing in the region; the region’s capacity to contact-trace, identify cluster outbreaks, and issue proper isolation and quarantine orders; and identification of “high risk settings” in the region, such as correctional institutions and skilled nursing facilities, and ensuring such facilities have necessary safeguards in place to support continued operations while still implementing mitigation measures.
The administration will also examine the business and industry sectors within a region to evaluate the risks and benefits of reopening, such as worker exposure and spread risks, health care capacity, and supply chain impact.
The three phases – aptly labeled Red, Yellow, and Green – are comprised of progressively loosening restrictions until a semblance of relative normalcy is reached.
The Red Phase is the current status quo in the entire state. This, of course, involves the closure of all non-life-sustaining businesses, closure of schools for in-person instruction, and the closure of most childcare facilities. The Red Phase also includes the statewide Stay-at-Home Order, prohibition on large gatherings, dine-in restaurants, and non-essential travel.
The Yellow Phase will involve slowly easing work restrictions and social interactions. Businesses with in-person operations will be required to follow strict guidelines for density and safety procedures, in addition to implementing the Worker Safety and Building Safety orders that were previously issued. Telework must also continue where it is feasible.
The Yellow Phase will also involve the lifting of the Stay-at-Home Order (replaced by “aggressive mitigation”), but large gatherings of more than 25 people will be prohibited. In-person retail will be permitted, with curbside and delivery preferable, while gyms, spas, casinos, theaters, and the like will remain closed. Bars and restaurants will continue to be limited to carry out or delivery.
Then, finally, the Green Phase. According to the administration, this will involve an easing of “most restrictions” by lifting the stay at home and business closure orders to “strategically reopen” the economy while continuing to prioritize public health. Even during this phase, however, all individuals must follow CDC and Department of Health guidelines.
The administration indicates it will develop guidance for businesses and local governments to follow as the reopening process unfolds. In addition to other requirements, like businesses ensuring adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and naming a Pandemic Safety Officer to ensure company compliance with COVID-19 related safety procedures, employers will be required to display a Commonwealth-created “COVID-19 Safety Procedures for Businesses” flyer, along with its other posters.
This regulatory landscape is sure to continue to rapidly develop as businesses and the Commonwealth move toward reopening. The McNees Labor & Employment Group remains available to provide assistance.