On May 1, 2020, Governor Chris Sununu issued a new emergency order with revised stay-at-home guidelines and a timeline for certain business openings. The entire Stay At Home Order 2.0, which remains in effect until May 31, 2020, can be found here. New Hampshire appears to be leading the region in setting forth its planned, phased reopening of the state’s economy. These are some of the highlights:
All businesses and organizations, essential or not, are encouraged to continue to operate remotely (i.e., telework) instead of requiring employees, customers, or the public to report to the company or organization’s physical facility. For essential businesses that do reopen and begin on-site operations, the governor issued universal guidelines to follow. This is a summary of the guidelines for New Hampshire employers who wish to reopen:
1.) Screen Employees for Illness. Employers must develop a process for screening all employees who are reporting to work for COVID-19 related symptoms. As part of that screening process, employers must assign one person and location to, on a daily basis, take employee temperatures with a non-touch thermometer, and ask a series of specific questions about COVID-19 symptoms BEFORE they enter the workplace. The assigned screener must wear a face covering, and employers must communicate the screening procedures to all employees.
2.) Keep Sick Employees at Home. Employers must require all employees who are sick or not feeling well to stay home, and employees must notify their supervisor by phone if they are sick and cannot come in. Screened employees who have reported to work AND who have a temperature that exceeds 100.00 degrees Fahrenheit or who have answered “yes” to any of the screening questions must be instructed to leave the premises immediately and to seek medical advice. If an employee becomes sick during the day, they should be sent home immediately, as well. Per EEOC and other pertinent guidelines, employers must maintain the confidentiality of employee health information.
3.) Promote Good Hygiene. Employers are required to “strongly promote” frequent hand washing, make hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol) readily available, and promote proper sneezing and coughing etiquette. Employers should also discourage workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible.
4.) Clean the Premises. Employers must implement workplace cleaning and disinfection practices that follow CDC guidelines, including regular sanitation of high to moderate touch surfaces at least every two hours. Surfaces in employee workspaces should also be cleaned and disinfected. Employers must develop policies for worker protection and provide training to all staff prior to assigning cleaning tasks
5.) Wear Masks. All employees should wear a cloth face covering while at work and in potential close contact with others and/or where social distancing is difficult to maintain.
6.) Adhere to Social Distancing: Employers must implement social distancing guidelines, and modify employee schedules, where possible, to reduce the number of physical interactions. For example, employers should avoid in-person meetings, and instead conduct them by phone or video conference, if possible. If an in-person meeting is necessary, employees should be at least 6 feet from others at all times. Employers should limit self-service of communal food, such as candy dishes, common creamers at coffee stations, water coolers, etc.
7.) Update Sick Polices. Employers must review policies and practices and make changes as necessary to ensure that they are consistent with public health recommendations and the existing state and federal workplace laws. The guidelines suggest that employers should amend sick policies to include symptoms of COVID-19 or create a COVID-19 specific policy. Employers are also encouraged to maintain flexible, non-punitive policies that permit employees to stay home if ill or to care for a sick family member. These policies should incorporate any sector specific recommendations by the state of New Hampshire. Finally, employers are encouraged to post these policies and have employees sign the policy as well.
8.) Plan for potential COVID-19 cases. Employers must develop plans to allow them to continue essential business functions if they experience high absenteeism as a result of COVID-19. Employers should work with state and local officials when needed to monitor and investigate cases of COVID-19. In all cases, employers must work in a manner to ensure privacy rights.
Hospitals may begin conducting “time-sensitive procedures”, starting May 4, such as MRI or CT scans, knee replacements or biopsies, according to these additional restrictions.
Barber, hair salons and cosmetology businesses, drive-in movie theaters, golf courses, and retail establishments will be allowed to reopen May 11, subject to specified restrictions applicable to each industry. For example, hair salons and barbers will be open by appointment only with restrictions on arrival procedures and maximum occupancy. Parked cars at drives-ins will have to be at least 10 feet apart and food available for purchase must be pickup-only and eaten in vehicles. Golfers are prohibited from arriving sooner than 15 minutes before tee time, and may play only with personal clubs and without caddies. Retail stores must limit occupancy to 50%, with staff members required, and customers suggested, to wear face coverings at all times. These are links the full industry-based opening guidelines for Barbers and Salons, Drive-Ins, Golf, Retail.
Restaurants will be allowed to open for outdoor dining starting May 18, as well as by reservation or call ahead only (no walk-ins). Bars and indoor seating will remain closed. No more than six people may sit at a table, and tables must be configured so customers are seated at least 6 feet apart from diners at other tables. Restaurants must stagger reservations to prevent congregating in waiting areas, and waiting areas must allow for customers and employees to be spaced at least 6 feet appear. Customers also will be asked to wear face coverings or masks when entering or exiting the restaurant or seating area or going to the restroom, but they will not be required while a customer is seated and dining outdoors.
Restaurants will be permitted to expand outdoor seating to parking spaces close to entrances, sidewalks, existing patios, and lawn areas, if seating can be set up safely. The outdoor space also must be clearly delineated and distanced from the general public. If expansion is in a shared space, restaurants must coordinate and seek approval from local authorities. Restaurants must also use disposable menus or menus that can be sanitized between each use. Self-serve buffets, condiment stations and beverage stations aren’t allowed. Signage must be prominently posted with questions to screen out customers experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Restaurants also must make alcohol-based hand-sanitizer readily available at the reception desk for both customers and employees. The full set of restaurant guidelines can be found here.
Campgrounds also will be allowed to open only to New Hampshire residents and members of private campgrounds, with additional limitations on occupancy, reservations, check ins, and access to public gathering space.
While these requirements may seem onerous at first glance, they do not require anything more than we have been doing for weeks. Indeed, the New Hampshire guidelines largely incorporate previously published CDC, OSHA, and EEOC guidelines, and they expand upon the guidelines provided by the President’s Commission, which calls for a 3-phase approach that looks similar to the new guidelines provided by the Governor’s order.
New Hampshire is leading the way. New Hampshire is moving forward more quickly to announce a plan for the phased reopening of its economy while its neighbor to the south continues to debate how to proceed. For now, the general shutdown of non-essential businesses in Massachusetts continues, as the Massachusetts shutdown order has been extended to May 18. Meanwhile, on the same day as the New Hampshire Governor’s re-opening order, the Governor of Massachusetts ordered all people in the state to wear masks in public when one cannot ensure 6-foot distance from people.
Action will, however, come soon from Massachusetts. As the task force appointed by the Massachusetts governor to develop reopening protocols continues its work, experts such as a panel on the Massachusetts High Technology Council have already submitted a preliminary plan for reopening. The report calls for reopening the economy in segments, developing therapies and a vaccine, and establishing new workplace and social norms to stop the spread of disease, which would include a massive testing and tracing plan as well as social distancing. This is still all debate and not yet government action. The briefing summary of the report is here: http://www.mhtc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/20200430-MHTC-COVID-19-Briefing-Summary.pdf
Bottom line, we are beginning to see the “new normal” that has been anticipated for the reopening of the economy in a post-COVID world, and New Hampshire, for now, is in the lead.