As addressed in Part 1 of this article, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) issued new orders on November 17, 2020 targeted at mitigating the recent surge of COVID-19 cases within the Commonwealth in recent weeks. Part 1 focused on the new face covering requirements now imposed on all Pennsylvanians. This article focuses on new the requirements for testing and quarantine following out-of-state travel established by the DOH and the impact that the new travel requirements might have on Pennsylvania employers.
New out-of-state travel requirements
The Order of the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health for Mitigation Relating to Travel, mandates that individuals traveling into the Commonwealth from any other state – regardless of whether the individual resides in another state and is travelling to Pennsylvania or the individual is a Pennsylvania resident returning from out-of-state travel – produce evidence of a negative COVID-19 test from a specimen collected within 72 hours prior to entering the Commonwealth. Individuals who do not have a negative COVID-19 test are required to quarantine for 14 days, and may only leave their homes to receive testing or other necessary medical services. Failure to comply with the order may result in the imposition of a fine ranging from $25.00 to $300.00. These newly instituted requirements take effect on Friday, November 20, 2020.
The order exempts individuals traveling to and from the Commonwealth for the purpose of work or for medical reasons (including individuals providing comfort and support to a patient), military personnel traveling under order or directive of a military authority, and individuals who are traveling through the Commonwealth while en route to another destination. It is mandatory, however, that such individuals conduct their travel with attention to social distancing and mask wearing requirements.
The travel order appears to be a mandate on individuals, rather than on employers. For example, the FAQs pertaining to the travel order repeatedly state: “The Commonwealth does not dictate how businesses should implement the requirements in the Order.” Even so, employers may consider taking steps to act in a manner that is consistent with the Order, as a matter of best practice. For example, employers may require employees to report out-of-state travel as early as practicable in advance and to certify that they have either quarantined or obtained a valid negative test result before allowing individuals to return to work following out-of-state travel covered by the order.
Additionally, employers with less than 500 employees that are covered by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) must be mindful of any obligation to provide paid time off for time taken to quarantine pursuant to the Pennsylvania travel mitigation order. Under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act provisions of the FFCRA, eligible employees are entitled to paid leave when they are “subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.”
Relatedly, the FFCRA currently is scheduled to remain in effect only through December 31, 2020. The FFCRA’s future in 2021 is uncertain. Whether or not it is extended, employers should be mindful of their obligations under the FFCRA during the 2020 holiday season as employees consider whether to travel out of state in light of the new Pennsylvania travel mitigation order.
Pennsylvania businesses are working rapidly in an already stressful time to comply with the new DOH requirements. Our Pennsylvania labor and employment team is closely monitoring developments relating to this order and any similar government action taken to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. To that end, Reed Smith has prepared a Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center, which is updated frequently as federal, state, and local requirements change.