Governor Wolf issued an executive order that, effective April 4, 2021, lifted or otherwise reduced various COVID mitigation measures. Critically, Pennsylvania is no longer mandating telework, though businesses are still “strongly encouraged” to conduct work remotely where possible. Moreover, indoor businesses previously subject to various occupancy limits may now operate at up to 75% capacity. Further information is contained in the revised FAQs.
Telework Mandate Lifted
As discussed here, Pennsylvania previously instituted a telework mandate during the summer of 2020 by which all businesses were required to conduct their operations remotely “in whole or in part” when telework was “possible.” Under the recent executive order, Pennsylvania employers no longer need to have their employees telework, though they are encouraged to do so where appropriate. The order makes clear that businesses that choose to operate in person must comply with all applicable Pennsylvania and federal COVID safety guidance.
This is certainly welcome news for office-based employers throughout Pennsylvania. However, we note that some local jurisdictions still have their own versions of telework mandates in effect. For example, Philadelphia still requires business to have their employees work remotely unless: (1) their operations involve the direct and in-person provision of services (such as medical services or child care services) or on-site provision of services (such as construction); or (2) it is otherwise impossible to conduct the business remotely.
The order also increases occupancy limitations for businesses and gatherings. All in-person businesses may now operate at up to 75% of their occupancy capacity. The order also raises the occupancy limit for indoor events to 25% of maximum occupancy, regardless of venue size if attendees and workers are able to comply with the continued 6-foot physical distancing requirement. Similarly, the revised order raises the occupancy limit for outdoor events to 50% of maximum occupancy, regardless of venue size if attendees and workers are able to comply with the continued 6-foot physical distancing requirement and other core public health measures.
Mask Mandates Still in Effect
As discussed here, Pennsylvania expanded a previously-issued statewide mask mandate in November 2020, though it continued to provide for various exemptions. Pennsylvania’s current COVID mitigation guidance makes clear that the mask mandate remains in effect by noting that masks “are required in businesses” and “must be work indoors and outdoors if you are away from your home.”
We note however that, effective March 17, 2021, the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health amended her executive order to permit fully-vaccinated Pennsylvanians to not wear masks when gathering with other fully-vaccinated people per the CDC’s guidance on the same topic. Yet, the CDC limited its leniency to indoor private settings and still recommends that those in “public settings” wear a mask and maintain proper social distance. As such, the CDC’s leniency most likely will not apply to office settings.
Seyfarth continues to monitor the Wolf Administration’s response to COVID-19 and will provide further updates when available.