Governor Wolf of Pennsylvania announced new restrictions and a new plan aimed at increased enforcement for not following orders already in place and those announced yesterday with the announcement of potential regulatory action for “repeat offenders.”
The updated order mentions immunity from civil liability for businesses by declaring within the order that they are working in essential emergency service activities but only as related to the masking mandate which can be read HERE.
Wolf and Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine announced the new measures in a news conference yesterday, November 24. The new measures include attestations from schools that want to continue in-person learning, requires remote work unless impossible (no guidance on what would meet the definition of impossible to protect businesses from the enhanced enforcement efforts), and a reduced capacity for in person businesses.
The order also mandates that alcohol sales be cutoff at 5pm Wednesday 11/25/20 until Thursday at 8am. Bars are prohibited from operations unless they serve sit down meals and bars and restaurants can only sell alcohol within the same transaction as the meal. Bars can serve alcohol until 11pm and restaurants can serve alcohol until 10pm.
A list of nine areas of “stepped up enforcement” are outlined below as listed by the state. Enforcement agencies listed include Pennsylvania State Police, local law enforcement, personnel from the departments of Agriculture and State, and PA Liquor Control Board stores who interact with visitors.
The state indicates these enforcement efforts will be made on a case by case basis and determined by the unique circumstances of each encounter which creates an unfortunate level of ambiguity for businesses, individuals and those tasked with enforcement.
The Department of Health also announced it is “bolstering” its ability to receive and respond to complaints from customers and employees and indicated it would continue to investigate complaints using staff from other state agencies to process complaints.
The specific measures and enforcement plans are listed in detail below and copied directly from the press release linked above.
Requiring Strict Safety Measures in Our Schools
Summary: The Wolf Administration is requiring Pre-K to 12 public schools in counties that have been in the substantial transmission level for at least two consecutive weeks to commit to safety measures to ensure the safety and well-being of students and educators. If they choose not to, they must move to fully remote learning without all extracurricular activities. As of Friday, Nov. 20, there are 59 counties in the substantial transmission level for at least two consecutive weeks.
Requirements for Pre-K to 12 public schools in substantial counties for at least two consecutive weeks:
- Schools are mandated to comply with updated protocols if a COVID-19 case is identified in the school building.
- By 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 30, chief school administrators and the governing body president/chair must sign an attestation form stating they have either transitioned to fully remote learning or are complying with the orders if they are conducting any in-person instruction while in the “substantial” range of transmission.
- Those schools that do not sign or comply with an attestation are required to provide only fully remote learning and suspend all extracurricular activities as long as the county remains in the substantial transmission level.
Keeping Businesses, Customers and Employees Safe
Summary: The administration is revising and reissuing its orders to protect businesses, customers, and employees. This order will consolidate previous orders and includes reiterating cleaning and social distancing requirements, mandatory telework requirements unless impossible, and other safety measures.
- Telework is mandatory unless impossible; safety measures required for businesses including cleaning, social distancing and masking.
- Online sales and curbside pickup for all shopping are encouraged.
Furthermore, to help with enforcement of existing masking orders in businesses, the administration is introducing liability protection for all businesses that maintain in person operations and are open to the public. Businesses will receive immunity from civil liability only as related to the Secretary’s masking order given that individuals and entities are engaged in essential emergency services activities and disaster services activities when enforcing the order.
Strengthening Gathering Limitations
Summary: As Pennsylvania sees an increase in cases, the commonwealth is strengthening gathering restrictions. All large events and gatherings are now reduced until further notice. In addition, the retail food services industry, including bars, restaurants, and private catered events must end alcohol sales for on-site consumption at 5 p.m. on Nov. 25, 2020 only.
- All indoor and outdoor events/ gatherings categories size limits will be reduced
- New limits are as follows:
Maximum Occupancy Calculator for indoor events:
|Maximum Occupancy||Allowable Indoor Rate|
|0 – 2,000 people||10% of Maximum Occupancy|
|2,001 – 10,000 people||5% of Maximum Occupancy|
|Over 10,000 people||No events over 500 people|
Maximum Occupancy Calculator for outdoor events:
|Maximum Occupancy||Allowable Indoor Rate|
|0 – 2,000 people||15% of Maximum Occupancy|
|2,001 – 10,000 people||10% of Maximum Occupancy|
|Over 10,000 people||5% of Maximum Occupancy up to 2,500 people|
- Household gatherings are also advised against when attendees include non-household members as noted through the Secretary of Health’s Stay at Home Advisory.
- To specifically address large crowds, on Nov. 25, 2020 only, all sales or dispensing of alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption at businesses in the retail food services industry, including bars, restaurants, and private catered events must end at 5 p.m. Indoor dining may continue, takeout is encouraged.
Empowering local government
- The governor and Secretary of Health’s orders were issued pursuant to the authority granted to them under the law, and as such they have the force and effect of law. This authority extends to all local enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania. Local law enforcement received guidance on enforcement of the various COVID-19 orders in place from the Pennsylvania State Police through the PA Chiefs of Police Association.
- Given the importance of local engagement, the Department of Health has provided recommendations for local municipal leaders, as well as county-wide leadership. While statewide mitigation steps are necessary, local leaders can implement their own orders, ordinances, or directives in order to protect health and safety as long as they are stricter than those mandated by the state. Additionally, counties and municipalities are authorized to enforce state law, including orders from the Secretary of Health or Governor.
- Local leaders at all levels of government should exercise their authority and influence to support public health efforts that will protect residents and local economies. When local leaders engage, their constituents understand that they are supported in adopting and sustaining preventive behaviors.
- The Department of Health has established thresholds representing low, moderate, or substantial community transmission of COVID-19, and corresponding actions that can be taken by county and municipal leaders. A county’s threshold may change week-by-week as incidence and percent positivity rates rise and fall. Leaders should implement more public health actions rather than fewer if their county is between thresholds. To determine level of community transmission, counties should use the Department of Health’s COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring System Dashboard. The Department of Health and the Department of Education use the same metrics to recommend instructional models for school leaders.
- Recommendations for each level of community transmission include increased communication, collaborative planning, stricter directives, and working with school leaders.
Ramping Up Enforcement
Summary: Orders already in place and those announced today are all enforceable, and law enforcement and state agencies will be stepping up enforcement efforts, issuing citations and fines, and possibly regulatory actions for repeat offenders.
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.
We are in this together,
Brinker Simpson & Company, LLC
Disclaimer: This alert is for informational purposes only and does not constitute professional advice. Information contained in this communication is not intended or written to be used as tax advice & cannot be used by the recipient to avoid penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code. We strongly advise you to seek professional assistance with respect to your specific issue(s).