As Delaware operates in Phase 2 of its economic reopening, the following are general guidelines applicable to offices which are not otherwise subject to industry-specific guidance.  The following applies as of June 15, 2020, the date that Delaware began Phase 2 of its economic reopening, as more fully set forth in the Twenty-First Modification of the Declaration of a State of Emergency for the State of Delaware:

  • Employers must enforce strict social distancing protocols.
  • Employers must exclude employees who (a) have been diagnosed with COVID-19, (b) are reasonably suspected to have COVID-19, or (c) have symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, aches or muscle pain, chills or repeated shaking with chills. Such employees shall stay home and not come to work until they are until they are free of fever (100.4 °F or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms of COVID-19 for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g., cough suppressants). These employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.  Daily health screenings of employees are strongly recommended before work (and mandated for high risk businesses).  Symptomatic employees must not physically return to work until cleared by a medical professional.
  • Employers must prohibit employees who have been told they must be isolated or quarantined from on-premises work until isolation or quarantine status is discontinued by the DPH.
  • Employers are encouraged to continue teleworking. Employees who have been working from home should continue working from home unless there is a substantive change to business operations in Phase 2 (e.g. a business was closed, but now it is open).
  • All surfaces touched by visitors, including doors, seating restrooms, and elevators must be disinfected using an EPA-approved disinfectant every 15 minutes to 2 hours.
  • Hand sanitizer must be used by employees at frequent intervals during any service, appointment or scheduled event, including at a minimum after contact with surfaces touched by others, after incidental contact with a visitor, and before preparing or distributing food or drink.
  • Employees must social distance from each other while working. This can be accomplished through spacing or moving workstations, staggering shifts or other means.
  • Businesses must make hand sanitizer or handwashing stations readily available for all employees, patrons, and visitors throughout the business’ location, including at each entry and exit at a minimum. Hand sanitizer must be composed of at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol.
  • Businesses must stagger appointments or other scheduled gatherings and events to allow for a thorough cleaning and disinfecting according to CDC guidelines of any public spaces before the next appointment or other scheduled gathering or event begins.
  • Employers must post signs on stopping the spread of COVID-19, hand hygiene and wearing cloth face covering.

Additionally, owners of buildings used for commercial offices must adopt policies that, at a minimum, implement the following cleaning protocols:

  • Clean and disinfect high-touch areas routinely in accordance with CDC guidelines, particularly in spaces that are accessible to staff, customers, tenants, or other individuals, and ensure cleaning procedures following a known or potential exposure in a facility are in compliance with CDC recommendations.
  • Maintain cleaning procedures in all other areas of the facility.
  • Ensure that the facility has a sufficient number of workers to perform the above protocols effectively and in a manner that ensures the safety of occupants, visitors, and workers.

As offices reopen, they are required to be compliant with Federal, State and local safeguards for its employees, visitors and operations, and should be guided by requirements and recommendations, as applicable, specified by Delaware Executive Orders, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The above relate exclusively to professional and commercial offices operating in Delaware. As noted, there may be additional and different restrictions and requirements with respect to other industries permitted to be open at this time. While Governor Carney announced on June 25, 2020 that Phase 3 would be delayed in light of concerns about instances of noncompliance in Delaware and surging COVID-19 cases in other parts of the country, it is expected that when Delaware enters Phase 3, restrictions on businesses will be further relaxed. Requirements continue to evolve and we will continue to monitor Delaware’s economic reopening.


As the law continues to evolve on these matters, please note that this article is current as of date and time of publication and may not reflect subsequent developments. The content and interpretation of the issues addressed herein is subject to change. Cole Schotz P.C. disclaims any and all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents of this publication to the fullest extent permitted by law. This is for general informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Do not act or refrain from acting upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining legal, financial and tax advice.  For further information, please do not hesitate to reach out to your firm contact or to any of the attorneys listed in this publication.

On Monday, June 22nd, New York City –reopened to Phase Two businesses – including offices (including law firms, real estate and many other professional services).  New York City is the final region in New York State to have entered this phase which comes three months after the closure of all non-essential businesses under the “New York State on Pause.”  This is part of Governor Cuomo’s plan, called “New York Forward,” to re-open non-essential businesses in New York State on a regional and industry-specific basis as each region meets the criteria necessary to protect public health.

Although this is certainly a positive development, reopening offices under the New York Forward program will not be back to business as usual.  In connection with reopening, Phase Two businesses are required to, among other things, adopt industry-specific guidelines put forth by NYS (the “Guidelines”) and to adopt and conspicuously display a written safety plan that is designed to protect employees and visitors, make the physical workspace safer and implement processes that lower risk of infection in the business.  The Guidelines impose certain mandatory requirements, as well as recommended best practices, covering the following areas: screening, physical distancing (social distancing and limiting occupants to no more than 50% of maximum occupancy of a particular area), personal protective equipment (“PPE”) (e.g., masks), hygiene and cleaning, and communication.  In addition, employers must affirm in a written instrument that they have reviewed and understand the Guidelines and will implement them.

Notably, the Guidelines require employers to take steps to reduce interpersonal contact through various methods, such as limiting in-person presence to necessary staff, reducing on-site workforce, and staggering arrival/departure times.  Although the employer is free to choose the method, it is recommended that employees who can work remotely continue to do so at least for the near future.

Additional requirements under the Guidelines that will noticeably impact life in the office include certain screening measures (discussed further below), closing all non-essential common areas (e.g., kitchens, gyms, game rooms) within the office, posting signage for social distancing throughout the office and in tighter spaces where social distancing is not possible (e.g., elevators, bathrooms), supplying of PPE to employees and requiring that PPE be worn around the office, in elevators and other tight spaces, setting up hand hygiene stations, maintaining cleaning logs, undergoing regular sanitization and disinfection of the office, and prohibiting food sharing among employees (e.g., buffet meals), among other things.

To enable building owners and business to screen entrants, Executive Order 202.38 was passed to allow temperature checks prior to individuals gaining entry into the office, and to permit a building owner or employer or building owner to deny admittance to anyone who refuses a temperature check and whose temperature is above that proscribed by the NYS Dept of Health guidelines.  This is in addition to the mandatory health screening assessment under the Guidelines for employees, contractors and other visitors, that permit temperature checks and questionnaires asking about (1) COVID-19 symptoms in past 14 days, (2) positive COVID-19 test in past 14 days, and/or (3) close contact with confirmed or suspected COVID-10 case within past 14 days, with responses being reviewed and documented daily.  On-site screeners should be trained by employer-identified individuals familiar with Federal, State and local protocols, and should wear appropriate PPE, including a face covering at minimum.

In addition to the foregoing, employers must establish a communication plan for employees, visitors and clients with a consistent means to provide updated information, and maintain a continuous log of every person, including workers and visitors, who may have close contact with other individuals at the workplace, such that all individuals may be identified, traced and notified in the event a worker is diagnosed with COVID-19.  Such communication plan should provide for notification of state and local health departments if a worker tests positive for COVID-19 in cooperation with contact tracing efforts, including notifying potential contacts, such as workers, visitors and/or customers who had close contact with the individual while maintaining confidentiality required by state and federal law and regulations.  The communication plan would also cover the more obvious things, such as that employees who are sick should stay home, or should return home if they become ill at work.

As offices reopen, they should also be guided by requirements and recommendations, as applicable, specified by New York City and by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The above relates exclusively to professional and commercial offices operating in New York City. There are different restrictions and requirements with respect to those other industries permitted to be open at this time (and some businesses are not yet permitted to be open).  The requirements continue to evolve and we will continue to monitor New York City’s staged reopening.

See the following link for Phase Two office industry-specific guidelines: https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/OfficesSummaryGuidelines.pdf

See the following link for Phase Two office industry-specific written safety plan template: https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/NYS_BusinessReopeningSafetyPlanTemplate.pdf

See the following link for NYC Phase Two office guidelines on re-opening: https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/coronavirus/downloads/phase2/offices.pdf

 

 


As the law continues to evolve on these matters, please note that this article is current as of date and time of publication and may not reflect subsequent developments. The content and interpretation of the issues addressed herein is subject to change. Cole Schotz P.C. disclaims any and all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents of this publication to the fullest extent permitted by law. This is for general informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Do not act or refrain from acting upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining legal, financial and tax advice.  For further information, please do not hesitate to reach out to your firm contact or to any of the attorneys listed in this publication.

Although a few counties and cities of Maryland continue to impose additional restrictions, Maryland, including Baltimore City, has lifted its stay-at-home order and is proceeding with its three stages of reopening as outlined in Maryland Strong: A Road to Recovery. Nevertheless, Maryland encourages those employees who are able to work at home to continue to do so whenever possible.  When working in a professional office, however, Maryland recommends certain best practices.  For office buildings, Maryland recommends the following:

  • Clean and disinfect the offices per CDC guidelines.
  • Open or remove doors where possible to minimize touch points.
  • Remove high-touch shared items or sanitize between uses (e.g., kitchen appliances)
  • Provide automatic hand sanitizer stations near touch points (e.g., elevators).
  • Install automatic soap dispensers in kitchens and restrooms.
  • Rearrange desks and seats in meeting rooms to allow six feet of distancing.
  • Consider designating and posting one-way foot traffic direction signs in main circulation routes.
  • Mark increments of six feet on floors where lines form.
  • Post signs on walls and place stickers on floors of elevators describing where to stand.
  • Open doors and windows for fresh air.
  • Replace air filters more frequently, using the highest filtration level available.
  • Designate one location for deliveries, disinfecting items and restricting to only assigned employees.
  • Encourage the use of face masks.
  • Communicate these precautions to tenants promptly and electronically.

 

For employers offering professional services, Maryland recommends the following:

  • Implement a daily screening process that includes asking employees health questions recommended by CDC and Maryland Department of Health (e.g., did you lose your sense of smell or taste?).
  • Consider temperature testing employees.
  • Instruct sick employees to follow CDC and MDH guidelines regarding home isolation.
  • Conduct telephone or video conferences.
  • Limit attendees at in-person conferences.
  • Consider alternate work hours (e.g., split or staggered schedules)
  • Stagger lunch hours and use of kitchens.
  • Encourage the use of face masks.
  • Encourage distancing of six feet.
  • Communicate these precautions to employees promptly and electronically.

Currently, Maryland has progressed to the second stage.  Hopefully, the implementation of these recommendations will allow Maryland to not only enter into stage three but also finally graduate to business as usual.

 


As the law continues to evolve on these matters, please note that this article is current as of date and time of publication and may not reflect subsequent developments. The content and interpretation of the issues addressed herein is subject to change. Cole Schotz P.C. disclaims any and all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents of this publication to the fullest extent permitted by law. This is for general informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Do not act or refrain from acting upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining legal, financial and tax advice.  For further information, please do not hesitate to reach out to your firm contact or to any of the attorneys listed in this publication.

On March 21, 2020, Governor Murphy issued Executive Order 107 directing that businesses, including commercial and professional offices, must accommodate their workforce, wherever practical, for telework or work-from-home arrangements.  To the extent employees are unable to perform their jobs via work-from-home arrangements, businesses are required to use best efforts to reduce on-site staff to the minimum number necessary to continue essential operations of the business.  Examples of employees that can be physically on-site include information technology maintenance workers, janitorial staff and certain administrative staff.

On May 18, 2020, Governor Murphy announced a three-stage plan for reopening New Jersey businesses.  Since June 15, 2020,  New Jersey has been in Stage 2 of this three-stage plan, whereby commercial and professional offices may be open and operating, but must continue to accommodate their workforce for telework and work-from-home arrangements wherever practical in accordance with Executive Order 107.  Further, commercial and professional offices must continue to use best efforts to reduce in-office staff to the minimum number needed to continue essential operations. https://covid19.nj.gov/faqs/nj-information/general-public/what-businesses-are-open-what-rules-or-safety-guidelines-must-they-follow#direct-link  As offices reopen, they are required to be compliant with Federal, State and local safeguards for its employees, visitors and operations, and should be guided by requirements and recommendations, as applicable, specified by New Jersey Executive Orders, and by the New Jersey of Office of Emergency Management, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Owners of commercial buildings that house businesses permitted to maintain in-person operations pursuant to Executive Order 107, including commercial and professional offices, are required to implement the following minimum cleaning protocols:

  • Conduct routine disinfecting of high-touch areas in accordance with CDC guidelines, including after a known or potential exposure to the coronavirus has occurred;
  • Maintain cleaning procedures in all other areas of the facility; and
  • Ensure there are sufficient personnel to effectively conduct the necessary cleaning and disinfecting of the facility in a manner that protects the safety of workers and visitors.

It is not clear when New Jersey will enter Stage 3 of its reopening plan.   The above relate exclusively to professional and commercial offices operating in New Jersey. There are different restrictions and requirements with respect to those other industries permitted to be open at this time.

The requirements continue to evolve and we will continue to monitor New Jersey’s staged reopening, and provide updated guidance as it becomes available.

 


As the law continues to evolve on these matters, please note that this article is current as of date and time of publication and may not reflect subsequent developments. The content and interpretation of the issues addressed herein is subject to change. Cole Schotz P.C. disclaims any and all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents of this publication to the fullest extent permitted by law. This is for general informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Do not act or refrain from acting upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining legal, financial and tax advice.  For further information, please do not hesitate to reach out to your firm contact or to any of the attorneys listed in this publication.

On Wednesday, June 17, 2020 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New York City, the Mid-Hudson Region, and Long Island are all expected to move forward an additional level under the State’s reopening plan within the next week. Currently, New York City is in Phase One, and the Mid-Hudson and Long Island are in Phase Two.

Per the Governor, New York City will advance to Phase Two on Monday, June 22, 2020. So far, dates the Governor has publicly stated for advancing any region have held true, but Mayor Bill de Blasio has been more cautious on this point, believing that the City would not meet the criteria for Phase Two until July 1 at the earliest. Under Phase Two, the following industries may reopen: (1) professional services and offices ; (2) in-store retail ; (3) retail rental, repair, and cleaning; (4) real estate services; (5) vehicle sales, rentals, and leasing ; (6) hair salons and barbershops; (7) commercial building management; and (8) outdoor and take-out food services.

Mid-Hudson is expected to advance to Phase Three on Tuesday, June 23, 2020, with Long Island to follow on June 24, 2020. Under Phase Three, the following businesses may reopen: (1) personal care services, such as tattoo parlors, massage therapy, spas, tanning, and waxing; and (2) indoor food services that meet the proper distancing guidelines.

 


As the law continues to evolve on these matters, please note that this article is current as of date and time of publication and may not reflect subsequent developments. The content and interpretation of the issues addressed herein is subject to change. Cole Schotz P.C. disclaims any and all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents of this publication to the fullest extent permitted by law. This is for general informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Do not act or refrain from acting upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining legal, financial and tax advice.  For further information, please do not hesitate to reach out to your firm contact or to any of the attorneys listed in this publication.