Pennsylvania Issues Guidance for Businesses Concerning COVID-19 Mitigation Efforts

18 March 2020 Coronavirus Resource Center Blog
Authors: Christopher A. DeGennaro Ann Marie Uetz

UPDATE – March 28, 2020

Click here for an updated list of life-sustaining businesses exempt from Governor Wolf’s March 19th Order.

On March 23, 2020, Governor Wolf issued a Stay at Home Order to Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Monroe, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties. The Order requires all individuals residing in these counties to “stay at home except as needed to access, support, or provide life sustaining business, emergency, or government services.”  The Governor subsequently amended the Order to include more than twenty counties throughout the state. Click here for the Governor’s latest Orders. 

UPDATE – March 22, 2020

On March 22, 2020, the City of Philadelphia issued a new Business Activity and Stay at Home Order detailing restrictions on business activity, personal activity, and congregation in Philadelphia in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new restriction takes effect March 23, 2020 at 8 a.m. Under the Order, all public gatherings of any number of people are prohibited except in connection with Essential Businesses and Essential Personal Activities. The City Order defers to the list of life-sustaining businesses set forth in Governor Wolf’s Order, but "may impose additional . . . restrictions."  Click here for the City Order. 

UPDATE - March 20, 2020

On Thursday, March 19, 2020, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf increased Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 response with an unprecedented Executive Order requiring all “non-life sustaining businesses” in Pennsylvania to close their physical locations by 8:00 p.m. Click here to view the Governor’s Order. “Non-life sustaining businesses” are listed here and include businesses in the following industries, among others: construction; manufacturing; retail; and leisure and hospitality. Notably, in extenuating circumstances, exemptions will be granted to businesses supplying or servicing health care providers. Any non-life sustaining businesses failing to comply will be subject to enforcement action as of March 21, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. Keeping with other states and municipalities, “businesses that offer carry-out delivery, and drive through food and beverage may continue to do as long as social distancing and other mitigation measures are employed.”  We are monitoring this very fluid situation and will provide updates as they become available

“You don’t want to be complacent. You always want to be ahead of the curve.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, M.D., Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Pennsylvania has joined other states and major cities strongly urging “non-essential businesses” across Pennsylvania to close for at least 14 days – beginning Tuesday, March 17, 2020 – to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. See Governor Tom Wolf’s March 16, 2020 Press Release. Under Governor Wolf’s guidance, “non-essential businesses” include public-facing industries such as entertainment, hospitality, and recreation facilities, including but not limited to:

  • Community and recreation centers 
  • Gyms, including yoga, barre and spin facilities
  • Hair salons and barber shops, nail salons and spas 
  • Casinos
  • Concert venues 
  • Theaters
  • Sporting event venues and golf courses 
  • Retail facilities, including shopping malls except for pharmacy or other health care facilities within retail operation

In addition, Governor Wolf has ordered all restaurants and bars to cease dine-in operations. Although carry-out, delivery, and drive-through services may continue, eating and drinking inside restaurants and bars is temporarily prohibited. Further, in line with the Trump Administration’s recent guidance, Governor Wolf’s Administration is urging businesses to employ social distancing best practices, including avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people. 

According to the Governor’s guidance, “essential” services and sectors include but are not limited to:

  • Food processing
  • Agriculture
  • Industrial manufacturing
  • Feed mills 
  • Construction 
  • Trash collection 
  • Grocery and household goods (including convenience stores)
  • Home repair/hardware and auto repair 
  • Pharmacy and other medical facilities
  • Biomedical and healthcare 
  • Post offices and shipping outlets
  • Banks
  • Gas stations 
  • Laundromats 
  • Veterinary clinics and pet stores
  • Warehousing, storage, and distribution
  • Public transportation
  • Hotel and commercial lodging

Pennsylvania is also strongly encouraging other businesses, including legal services, businesses and management consulting, professional services, and insurance services to arrange for employees to work remotely or telecommute to the extent possible. The State hopes to rely on businesses to act now before it is necessary to compel closures under the law, including under section 7301 of the Emergency Management Services Code.

Earlier this week, Governor Wolf designated Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County as mitigation counties, strongly urging non-essential businesses to close. By joint-letter from the Pennsylvania Department of Health (“DOH”) and the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (“DCED”) dated March 14, 2020, the DOH urged non-essential businesses to cease operations and the DCED informed businesses that financial assistance opportunities are being made available to mitigate the financial impact of closures. 

City of Philadelphia Announces New Restrictions on Business Activity

Philadelphia officials have announced new wide-ranging restrictions on commercial activity and halted all “non-essential” City government operations. The restrictions on commercial activity will remain in effect at least through March 27, 2020. Click here for the City’s Announcement. Under the new restrictions, only “essential businesses” should remain open. The City has designated the following businesses as essential:

  • Supermarkets and grocery stores
  • Big box stores
  • Pharmacies
  • Discount stores, mini-markets, and non-specialized food stores
  • Daycare centers
  • Hardware stores
  • Gas stations
  • Banks
  • Post Offices
  • Laundromats and dry cleaners
  • Veterinary clinics for domestic pets and pet store

Philadelphia has also deemed essential all commercial establishments that sell any of the following: 

  • Frozen products
  • Non-specialized stores of computers, telecommunications equipment, audio and video consumer electronics
  • Household appliances 
  • IT and telecommunication equipment 
  • Hardware, paint, flat glass, electrical, plumbing and heating material
  • Automotive fuel and domestic fuel 
  • Sanitary equipment 
  • Personal hygiene products
  • Medication not requiring medical prescription 
  • Medical and orthopedic equipment 
  • Optics and photography equipment
  • Soaps and detergents

Joining with other major cities around the country, Philadelphia is also requiring food establishments to cease dine-in operations for the duration of these restrictions. 

Allegheny County Calls Upon Non-Essential Businesses to Close

Allegheny County and Pittsburgh officials also urged “non-essential businesses” to close voluntarily on Sunday, March 15, 2020, including but not limited to:

  • Child care centers
  • Senior centers
  • Community and recreation centers
  • Gyms – including yoga, spin, barre and other similar facilities
  • Hair salons, nail salons and spas
  • Casinos
  • Bars
  • Concert venues
  • Theaters
  • Sporting event facilities
  • Golf clubs
  • Social clubs
  • Non-essential retail facilities including shopping malls (except for pharmacy or other health care facilities located therein)

Significantly, the guidance does not impact supermarkets, pharmacies or gas stations. Consistent with other major cities and municipalities, restaurants in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County are encouraged to stay open for carry-out and delivery only. Churches and other religious institutions have been asked to continue to provide social services and community support but refrain from hosting social gatherings. County and City officials advise that gatherings should be limited to 20 people or less during this time. Click here for the latest COVID-19 developments in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

For more information about recommended steps, please contact your Foley relationship partner. For additional web-based resources available to assist you in monitoring the spread of COVID-19 on a global basis, you may wish to visit the CDC and the World Health Organization

Foley has created a multi-disciplinary and multi-jurisdictional team, which has prepared a wealth of topical client resources and is prepared to help our clients meet the legal and business challenges that the coronavirus outbreak is creating for stakeholders across a range of industries.

Click here for Foley’s Coronavirus Resource Center to stay apprised of relevant developments, insights and resources to support your business during this challenging time. To receive this content directly in your inbox, click here and submit the form. 

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