In New York, the stay-at-home order is currently set to expire May 15, 2020. As states prepare to lift stay-at-home orders, employers should plan ahead by thinking about what return-to-work protocols will look like for their businesses while considering federal, state, and local guidelines and regulations. Specifically, employers should take particular care to reduce exposure to COVID-19 for vulnerable workers, while making sure to be compliant with relevant American with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) regulations. Employers should also follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) guidance for reducing workplace exposure for all employees. All decisions should be made in collaboration with local health officials and other state and local authorities who can help assess the current level of mitigation needed based on levels of COVID-19 community transmission and the capacities of local public health and healthcare systems.

Guidance for Employers in New York

On April 28, 2020, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo outlined guidelines for New York’s phased plan to re-open businesses on a regional basis. Each region of the State – Capital Region, Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mid-Hudson Valley, Mohawk Valley, New York City, North Country, Long Island, Southern Tier, and Western New York – must follow these guidelines as part of the re-opening plan.

  1. CDC Guidelines: Based on CDC recommendations, once a region experiences a 14-day decline in the hospitalization rate, it may begin a phased re-opening.
  2. Industries: Businesses in each region will re-open in phases. Phase one will include opening construction and manufacturing functions with low risk. Phase two will open certain industries based on priority and risk level. Businesses considered “more essential” with inherent low risks of infection in the workplace and to customers will be prioritized, followed by other businesses considered “less essential” or those that present a higher risk of infection spread. Regions must not open attractions or businesses that would draw a large number of visitors from outside the local area.
  3. Business Precautions: Each business and industry must have a plan to protect employees and consumers, make the physical workspace safer and implement processes that lower risk of infection in the business.
  4. Building Health Care Capacity: To maintain the phased re-opening plan, each region must have at least 30 percent of hospital beds and ICU beds available after elective surgeries resume.
  5. Testing Regimen: Regions must implement a testing regimen that prioritizes symptomatic persons and individuals who came into contact with a known COVID-19 positive person, and utilizes frequent tests of frontline and essential workers. Regions must maintain an appropriate number of testing sites to accommodate their population and must fully advertise where and how people can get tested. The region must also use the collected data to track and trace the spread of the virus.
  6. Tracing System: There must be at least 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 people. The region must also monitor the regional infection rate throughout the re-opening plan.
  7. Isolation Facilities: Regions must present plans to have rooms available for people who test positive for COVID-19 and who cannot self-isolate.
  8. Regional Coordination: Regions must coordinate the re-opening of schools, transportation systems, testing and tracing with other surrounding regions.
  9. Re-Imagining Tele-Medicine: Regions must reexamine what virtual medicine will entail.
  10. Re-Imagining Tele-Education: Regions must reexamine what virtual learning will entail.
  11. Regional Control Rooms: Each region must appoint an oversight institution as its control room to monitor regional indicators during the phased re-opening, including hospital capacity, rate of infection, PPE burn rate and businesses.
  12. Protect and Respect Essential Workers: Regions must continue to ensure protections are in place for essential workers.

Governor Cuomo also announced the creation of the New York Forward Re-Opening Advisory Board to help guide the State’s re-opening strategy.

On April 29, 2020, Governor Cuomo announced that 35 counties have been approved to resume elective outpatient treatments. The Governor previously announced that the State would allow elective outpatient treatments to resume in counties and hospitals without significant risk of COVID-19 surge in the near term. The counties now eligible are: Allegany, Broome, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chenango, Delaware, Dutchess, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Genesee, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Livingston, Madison, Monroe, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Orleans, Oswego, Putnam, Saratoga, Schoharie, Schuyler, St. Lawrence, Steuben, Sullivan, Tompkins, Ulster, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates.

General Guidance for Employers with Vulnerable Workers

In addition, the CDC drafted new guidance that it is preparing to unveil for a phased re-opening of specific industries and businesses as states gradually lift their stay-at-home restrictions.   Among other things, the CDC provides recommendations for protecting workers who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. These vulnerable workers include individuals over the age of 65 and those with underlying medical conditions. Vulnerable workers should be encouraged to self-identify, and employers should avoid making unnecessary medical inquiries. The CDC provides the following general guidance for employers with vulnerable workers. The guidance consists of: (1) phases for re-opening; (2) safety actions to implement; (3) monitoring and preparing protocols; and (4) being prepared to close. Specific industries may require more stringent safety precautions and there may be essential businesses in which recommended strategies are not feasible.

  1. Re-Opening in Phases

The CDC recommends the gradual re-opening of businesses according to the following three phases based on levels of COVID-19 community transmission (from higher transmission areas to lower transmission areas):

  • Phase One: Re-open only if business can ensure strict social distancing, proper cleaning and disinfecting requirements, and protection of their workers and customers; vulnerable workers are recommended to shelter in place.
  • Phase Two: Re-open only if business can ensure moderate social distancing, proper cleaning and disinfecting requirements, and protection of their workers and customers; vulnerable workers are recommended to shelter in place.
  • Phase Three: Re-open only if business can ensure limited social distancing, proper cleaning and disinfecting requirements, and protection of workers and customers.

In all three phases, employers should:

  • Establish and continue communication with state and local authorities to determine current mitigation levels in the community;
  • Protect employees at higher risk for severe illness by supporting and encouraging option to telework;
  • Consider offering vulnerable workers duties that minimize their contract with customers and other employees (g., restocking shelves rather than working as a cashier), if agreed by the worker;
  • Ensure that any other entities sharing the same workspace also follow this guidance; and
  • Provide employees from higher transmission areas (e., earlier Phase areas) telework and other options as feasible to eliminate travel to workplaces in lower transmission areas (i.e., later Phase areas) and vice versa.
  1. Implementing Safety Actions

In all three phases, employers should implement the following safety actions to combat the spread of COVID-19:

  • Promote healthy hygiene practices;
    • Enforce handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes, and using cloth face coverings when around others where feasible; however certain industries may require face shields.
    • Ensure that adequate supplies to support healthy hygiene behaviors are available, including soap, hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol, tissues, and no-touch trash cans.
    • Post signs on how to stop the spread of COVID-19, properly wash hands, take everyday protective measures, and properly wear a face covering.
  • Intensify cleaning, disinfection and ventilation;
    • Clean, sanitize, and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least daily and shared objects between uses.
    • Avoid using or sharing of items that are not easily cleaned, sanitized or disinfected.
    • Ensure safe and correct application of disinfectants.
    • Ensure that ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors, using fans, or other methods. Do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety risk to individuals and employees using the workspace.
    • Take steps to ensure that all water systems and features (e.g., drinking fountains, decorative fountains) are safe to use after a prolonged facility shutdown to minimize the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and other diseases associated with water.
  • Ensure social distancing; and
    • Consider installing physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions, and changing workspace layouts to ensure all individuals remain at least six feet apart.
    • Encourage telework for as many employees as possible.
    • Consider rotating or staggering shifts to limit the number of employees in the workplace at the same time.
    • Replace in-person meeting with video- or tele-conference calls whenever possible.
    • Limit any sharing of foods, tools, equipment, or supplies.
  • Limit travel and modify commuting practices.
    • Cancel any events where social distancing of at least six feet cannot be maintained between participants.
    • Ask employees who use public transportation to consider using teleworking to promote social distancing.
    • Train all managers and staff in the above safety actions. Consider conducting the training virtually, or if in-person ensure that social distancing is maintained.

In Phase One, employers should implement the following additional safety actions to combat the spread of COVID-19:

  • Limit service to drive-throughs, curbside take out, or delivery options, if possible;
  • Close communal spaces, such as break rooms, if possible;
  • Cancel all group events, gatherings, or meetings of more than 10 people;
  • Restrict any nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving external groups or organizations; and
  • Cancel all non-essential travel.

In Phase Two, employers should implement the following additional safety actions to combat the spread of COVID-19:

  • Stagger use of communal spaces, such as break rooms, and clean and disinfect in between uses;
  • Cancel all group events, gatherings, or meetings of more than 50 people;
  • Consider limiting any nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving external groups or organizations; and
  • Consider resuming non-essential travel in accordance with state and local regulations and guidance.

In Phase Three, employers should implement the following additional safety actions to combat the spread of COVID-19:

  • Stagger use of communal spaces, such as break rooms, and clean and disinfect in between uses; and
  • Consider resuming non-essential travel in accordance with state and local regulations and guidance.
  1. Monitoring and Preparing Protocols

In all three phases, employers should establish the following monitoring protocols:

  • Checking for signs and symptoms;
    • Consider conducting routine, daily health checks (g., temperature and symptom screening) of all employees.
    • If implementing health checks, conduct them safely and respectfully, and in accordance with any applicable privacy laws and regulations. Confidentiality should be respected. The CDC has guidelines that provide examples of screening methods for general businesses.
    • Encourage employees who are sick to stay at home.
  • Plan for when an employee becomes sick; and
    • Employees with symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell) at work should immediately be separated and sent home.
    • Establish procedures for safely transporting anyone sick to their home or to a healthcare facility.
    • Notify local health officials, staff, and customers (if possible) immediately of a possible case while maintaining confidentiality as required by the ADA.
    • Close off areas used by the sick person until after cleaning and disinfection. Wait 24 hours to clean and disinfect. If it is not possible to wait 24 hours, wait as long as possible before cleaning and disinfecting. Ensure safe and correct application of disinfectants and keep disinfectant products away from children.
    • Inform those who have had close contact with a person with COVID-19 to stay home and self-monitor for symptoms, and follow CDC guidance if symptoms develop.
  • Maintain healthy operations.
    • Implement flexible sick leave and other flexible policies and practices such as telework, if feasible.
    • Monitor absenteeism of employees and create a roster of trained back-up staff.
    • Designate a staff person to be responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns. Employee should know who this person is and how to contact them.
    • Create and task communication systems for employees for self-reporting and notification of exposures and closures.
  1. Being Prepared to Close

Employers should check state and local health department notices daily about transmission in the area and adjust operations accordingly. Employers should also be prepared to close for a few days if there is a case of COVID-19 in the workplace or for longer if cases increase in the local area.

Specific Guidance for Schools and Day Camps

The CDC provides the following guidance to keep communities safe while resuming peer-to-peer learning and providing support for parents and guardians returning to work. The guidance consists of: (1) phases for re-opening; (2) safety actions to implement; (3) monitoring and preparing protocols; and (4) being prepared to close.

  1. Re-Opening in Phases

The CDC recommends the gradual re-opening of schools and camps according to the following three phases based on levels of COVID-19 community transmission (from higher transmission areas to lower transmission areas):

  • Phase One: Schools that are currently closed remain closed. E-learning or distance learning opportunities should be provided for all students. Ensure provision of student services such as school meal programs. Camps restricted to children of essential workers and for children who live in the local geographic area only.
  • Phase Two: Remain open with enhanced social distancing measures and for children who live in the local geographic area only.
  • Phase Three: Remain open with distancing measures. Restricted attendance to those from limited transmission areas (e., other Phase Three areas) only.

In all three phases, employers should:

  • Establish and continue communication with state and local authorities to determine current mitigation levels in the community;
  • Protect staff and students who are at higher risk for severe illness, such as providing options for telework and virtual learning;
  • Follow CDC guidance for Schools and Childcare programs;
  • Provide teachers and staff from higher transmission areas (i.e., earlier Phase areas) telework and other options as feasible to eliminate travel to schools and camps in lower transmission areas (e., later Phase areas) and vice versa.
  • Ensure external community organizations that use the facilities also follow this guidance.
  1. Implementing Safety Actions

In all three phases, schools and camps should implement the following safety actions to combat the spread of COVID‑19:

  • Promote healthy hygiene practices;
    • Teach and reinforce handwashing and covering coughs and sneezes among children and staff.
    • Teach and reinforce using cloth face coverings among all staff. Face coverings are most essential when physical distancing is not possible. Staff should be frequently reminded not to touch the face covering and wash their hands frequently. Information should be provided to all staff on proper use removal and washing of cloth face coverings.
    • Have adequate supplies to support healthy hygiene behaviors are available, including soap, hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol (for staff and older children who ca safely use hand sanitizer), tissues, and no-touch trash cans.
    • Post signs on how to stop the spread of COVID-19, properly wash hands, take everyday protective measures, and properly wear a face covering.
  • Intensify cleaning, disinfection and ventilation;
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces within the school and on school buses at least daily (g., playground equipment, door handles, sink handles, drinking fountain) and shared objects (e.g., toys, games, art supplies) between uses.
    • To clean and disinfect school buses, the CDC provides guidance for bus transit operators.
    • Ensure safe and correct application of disinfectants and keep products away from children.
    • Ensure that ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors, using fans, or other methods. Do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety or health risk (e.g., allowing pollens in or exacerbating asthma symptoms) to children using the facility.
    • Take steps to ensure that all water systems and features (g., drinking fountains, decorative fountains) are safe to use after a prolonged facility shutdown to minimize the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and other diseases associated with water.
  • Ensure social distancing;
  • Limit sharing; and
    • Keep each child’s belongings separated from others’ and in individually labeled containers, cubbies, or areas.
    • Ensure adequate supplies to minimize sharing of high touch materials to the extent possible (g., art supplies, equipment, etc., assigned to a single camper) or limit use of supplies and equipment by one group of children at a time and clean and disinfect between.
    • If food is offered at any event, have prepackaged boxes or bags for each attendee instead of a buffet or family-style meal. Avoid sharing of foods and utensils.
    • Avoid sharing electronics devices, toys, books, and other games or learning aids.
  • Train all teachers and staff in the above safety actions. Consider conducting the training virtually, or if in-person, ensure that social distancing is maintained.

In Phases One and Two, schools and camps should implement the following additional safety actions to combat the spread of COVID-19:

  • Ensure that students and staff groupings are static as possible by having the same group of children stay with the same staff (all day for young children, and as much as possible for older children);
  • Restrict mixing between groups;
  • Cancel all field trips intergroup events and extracurricular activities (Phase One only);
  • Limit gatherings, events, and extracurricular activities to those that can maintain social distancing, support proper hand hygiene, and restrict attendance of those from higher transmission areas (Phase Two only; note that restricting attendance is for those from Phase One areas);
  • Restricted nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving other groups at the same time;
  • Space seating/desks to at least six feet apart;
  • Close communal use spaces such as dining halls and playgrounds if possible; otherwise stagger use and disinfect in between use;
  • If the cafeteria or group dining room is used, serve meals in classrooms instead. Serve individually plated meals and hold activities in separate classrooms. Stagger arrival and drop-off times or locations, or put in place other protocols to limit direct contact with parents as much as possible; and
  • Create social distance between children on school buses were possible.

In Phase Three, schools and camps should implement the following additional safety actions to combat the spread of COVID-19:

  • Consider keeping classes together to include the same group of children each day, and consider keeping the same childcare providers with the same group each day;
  • Allow minimal mixing between groups. Limit gatherings, events, and extracurricular activities to those that can maintain social distancing, support proper hand hygiene, and restrict attendance of those from higher transmission areas (e., Phase One or Two areas);
  • Continue to space out seating and bedding (head-to-toe positioning) to six feet apart, if possible;
  • Consider keeping communal use spaces closed, such as game rooms or dining halls, if possible; if this is not possible, stagger use and disinfect in between uses;
  • Consider continuing to play each child’s meal, to limit the use of shared serving utensils;
  • Consider limiting nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving other groups. Restrict attendance of those from higher transmission areas (e., Phase One or Two areas); and
  • Consider continuing to stagger arrival and drop off times and plan to continue limiting direct contact with parents as much as possible.
  1. Monitoring and Preparing Protocols

In all three phases, schools and camps should establish the following monitoring protocols:

  • Checking for signs and symptoms;
    • Implement screenings safely, respectfully, as well as in accordance with any applicable privacy laws or regulations. Confidentiality should be maintained.
    • School and camp administrators may use examples of screening methods in its guidance for child care programs that remain open as a guide for screening children. The CDC also has guidelines that provide examples of screening methods for general businesses, which can be used for screening staff.
    • Encourage staff or children to stay home if they are sick and encourage parents to keep sick children home.
  • Plan for when a staff, child, or visitor becomes sick; and
    • Work with school administrators, nurses, and other healthcare providers to identify an isolation room or area to separate anyone who exhibits COVID-19 like symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell). School nurses and other healthcare providers should use standard and transmission based precautions when caring for sick people.
    • Establish procedures for safely transporting anyone sick to their home or to a healthcare facility.
    • Notify local health officials, staff, and families immediately of a possible case while maintaining confidentiality as required by the ADA.
    • Close off areas used by the sick person until after cleaning and disinfection. Wait 24 hours to clean and disinfect. If it is not possible to wait 24 hours, wait as long as possible before cleaning and disinfecting. Ensure safe and correct application of disinfectants and keep disinfectant products away from children.
    • Advise six staff members not return until they have met CDC criteria to discontinue home isolation.
    • Inform those who have had close contact with a person with COVID-19 to stay home and self-monitor for symptoms, and follow CDC guidance if symptoms develop. Provide options for virtual learning.
  • Maintain healthy operations.
    • Implement flexible sick leave policies and practices, if feasible.
    • Monitor absenteeism and have a roster of trained back-up staff.
    • Monitor health clinic traffic. School nurses and other healthcare providers play important roles in monitoring health clinic traffic and the types of illnesses and symptoms among students.
    • Designate a staff person to be responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns. Employee should know who this person is and how to contact them.
    • Create and task communication systems for employees for self-reporting and notification of exposures and closures.
  1. Being Prepared to Close

Schools and camps should check state and local health department notices daily about transmission in the area and adjust operations accordingly. In the event a person is diagnosed with COVID-19 is determined to have been in the building and poses a risk to the community, programs may consider closing for a short time (e.g., 1-2 days) for cleaning and disinfection.

Specific Guidance for Restaurants and Bars

The CDC provides the following guidance for businesses in the food service industry (e.g., restaurants and bars) on ways to maintain healthy business operations and a safe and healthy work environment for employees, while reducing the risk of COVID-19 spread for both employees and customers. The guidance consists of: (1) phases for re-opening; (2) safety actions to implement; (3) monitoring and preparing protocols; and (4) being prepared to close.

  1. Re-Opening in Phases

The CDC recommends the gradual re-opening of restaurants and bars according to the following three phases based on levels of COVID-19 community transmission (from higher transmission areas to lower transmission areas):

  • Phase One: Bars remain closed and restaurant service should remain limited to drive-through, curbside take out, or delivery with strict social distancing.
  • Phase Two: Bars may open with limited capacity; restaurants may open dining rooms with limited seating capacity that allows for social distancing.
  • Phase Three: Bars may open with increased standing room occupancy that allows for social distancing; restaurants may operate while maintaining social distancing.

In all three phases, employers should:

  • Establish and continue communication with state and local authorities to determine current mitigation levels in the community;
  • Consider offering vulnerable workers duties that minimize their contract with customers and other employees (g., managing inventory rather than working as a cashier, or managing administrative needs through telework), if agreed by the worker; and
  • Provide employees from higher transmission areas (i.e., earlier Phase areas) telework and other options as feasible to eliminate travel to workplaces in lower transmission areas (i.e., later Phase areas) and vice versa.
  1. Implementing Safety Actions

In all three phases, restaurants and bars should implement the following safety actions to combat the spread of COVID‑19:

  • Promote healthy hygiene practices;
    • Enforce handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes, and using cloth face coverings by employees when near other employees or customers.
    • Ensure that adequate supplies to support healthy hygiene behaviors are available, including soap, hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol (perhaps on every table, if supplies allow), and tissues.
    • Post signs on how to stop the spread of COVID-19, properly wash hands, take everyday protective measures, and properly wear a face covering.
  • Intensify cleaning, disinfection and ventilation;
    • Clean, sanitize, and disinfect frequently touched surfaces (e.g., door handles, work stations, and cash registers) at least daily and shared objects (e.g., payment terminals, tables, countertops/bars, receipt trays, condiment holders) between uses. Use products the meet Environment Protection Agency (“EPA”) criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2 and that are appropriate for the surface. Prior to wiping a surface, allow the disinfectant to sit for the necessary contact time recommended by the manufacturer. Train staff on proper cleaning procedures to ensure safe and correct application of disinfectants.
    • Make available individual disinfectant wipes in bathrooms, and post reminders not to flush these wipes but they dispose of them in the trash.
    • Wash, rinse, and sanitize food contact surfaces, food preparation services, and beverage equipment after use.
    • Avoid using or sharing of items such as menus, condiments, and any other food. Instead, use disposable or digital menus, single serving condiments, and no-touch trash cans and doors.
    • Use touchless payment options as much as possible, when available. Ask customers and employees to exchange cash or card payments by placing on a receipt tray or on the counter rather than by hand. Wipe any pens, counters, or hard surfaces between use or customer.
    • Use disposable food service items (utensils, dishes). If disposable items are not feasible, ensure that all non-disposable food service items are handled with gloves and washed with dish soap and hot water or in a dishwasher. Employees should wash their hands after removing their gloves or after directly handling used food service items.
    • Use gloves when removing garbage bags or handling and disposing of trash and wash hands afterwards.
    • Avoid using food and beverage implements brought in by customers.
    • Ensure that ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors, using fans, or other methods. Do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety risk to employees, children, or customers.
    • Take steps to ensure that all water systems and features (e.g., drinking fountains, decorative fountains) are safe to use after a prolonged facility shutdown to minimize the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and other diseases associated with water.
  • Ensure social distancing; and
  • Train all employees in the above safety actions while maintaining social distancing and use of face coverings during training.

In Phase One, restaurants and bars should implement the following additional safety actions to combat the spread of COVID-19:

  • Limit service to drive-throughs, curbside take out, or delivery options only;
  • Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks to ensure customers remain at least six feet apart in lines or ask customers to wait in their cars or away from the establishment while waiting to pick up food. Post signs to inform customers of food pickup protocols;
  • Consider installing physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions at cash registers, or other food pick up areas were maintaining physical distance of six feet is difficult;
  • Restricted the number of employees and shared spaces, including kitchens, break room, and offices to maintain at least a six-foot distance between people; and
  • Rotate or staggered shifts to limit the number of employees in the workplace at the same time.

In Phase Two, restaurant and bars should implement the following additional safety actions to combat the spread of COVID-19:

  • Provide drive-through, delivery, or curbside pick-up options and prioritize outdoor seating as much as possible;
  • Reduce occupancy and limit the size of parties dining in together the sizes that ensure all customer parties remain at least six feet apart (e.g., all tables and bar stools six feet apart, marking tables/stools that are not for use) in order to protect staff and other guests;
  • Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signage on walls to ensure that customers remain at least six feet apart and lines are waiting for seating;
  • Ask customers to wait in their cars or away from the establishment while waiting to be seated. If possible, use phone app technology to patrons when their table is ready to avoid touching and use of “buzzers”;
  • Consider options for dine-in customers to order ahead of time to limit the amount out of time spent in the establishment;
  • Avoid offering any self-serve food or drink options, such as buffets salad bars and drinks stations;
  • Install physical barriers, such a sneeze guards and partitions a cash registers, bars, host stands, and other areas were maintaining physical distance of six feet is difficult; and
  • Limit the number of employees and shared spaces, including kitchens, break room, and offices to maintain at least a six-foot distance between people.

In Phase Three, restaurant and bars should implement the following additional safety actions to combat the spread of COVID-19:

  • Provide drive-through delivery or curbside pick-up options and prioritize outdoor seating as much as possible;
  • Consider reducing occupancy and limiting the size of parties dining in together to sizes that ensure that all customer parties remain at least six feet apart (e.g., all tables and barstools six feet apart, marking tables/stools that are not for use) in order to protect staff and other guests;
  • Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signage on walls to ensure that customers remain at least six feet apart in lines or waiting for seating;
  • Consider resuming non-essential travel in accordance with state and local regulations and guidance;
  • If possible, use phone app technology to our patrons when their table is ready to avoid touching and use of “buzzers”;
  • Consider options for dine-in customers to order ahead of time to limit the amount out of time spent in the establishment;
  • Avoid offering any self-serve food or drink options, such as buffets salad bars and drinks stations; and
  • Install physical barriers, such a sneeze guards and partitions a cash registers, bars, host stands, and other areas were maintaining physical distance of six feet is difficult
  1. Monitoring and Preparing Protocols

In all three phases, restaurants and bars should establish the following monitoring protocols:

  • Checking for signs and symptoms;
    • Consider conducting daily health checks (g., temperature and symptom screening) of employees.
    • If implementing health checks, conduct them safely and respectfully, and in accordance with any applicable privacy laws and regulations. Confidentiality should be respected. The CDC has guidelines that provide examples of screening methods for general businesses.
    • Encourage employees who are sick to stay at home.
  • Plan for when an employee becomes sick; and
    • Employees with symptoms (e., fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell) at work should immediately be separated and sent home.
    • Inform those who have had close contact with a person with COVID-19 to stay home and self-monitor for symptoms, and follow CDC guidance if symptoms develop.
    • Establish procedures for safely transporting anyone sick to their home or to a healthcare facility.
    • Notify local health officials, staff, and customers (if possible) immediately of a possible case while maintaining confidentiality as required by the ADA.
    • Close off areas used by the sick person until after cleaning and disinfection. Wait 24 hours to clean and disinfect. If it is not possible to wait 24 hours, wait as long as possible before cleaning and disinfecting. Ensure safe and correct application of disinfectants and keep disinfectant products away from children.
    • Advise sick staff members not to return until they have met CDC criteria to discontinue home isolation.
  • Maintain healthy operations.
    • Implement flexible sick leave and other flexible policies and practices such as telework, if feasible.
    • Monitor absenteeism of employees and create a roster of trained back-up staff.
    • Designate a staff person to be responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns. Employee should know who this person is and how to contact them.
    • Create and task communication systems for employees for self-reporting and notification of exposures and closures.
  1. Being Prepared to Close

Restaurants and bars should check state and local health department notices daily about transmission in the area and adjust operations accordingly. Restaurants and bars should also be prepared to close for a few days if there is a case of COVID-19 in the establishment and for longer if cases increase in the local area.

Specific Guidance for Other Industries

The CDC provides similar guidance for child care programs, communities of faith, and mass transit administrators. They also consist of: (1) phases for re-opening; (2) safety actions to implement; (3) monitoring and preparing protocols; and (4) being prepared to close.

 

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If you have any questions regarding this alert, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Putney, Twombly, Hall & Hirson LLP