Effective 8 p.m. on April 1, 2020, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is under a stay at home order due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pennsylvania’s stay-at-home order, which encompasses all counties throughout the Commonwealth, prohibits individuals from leaving their place of residence except as needed to access, support, or provide life-sustaining business, emergency or government services. The order is currently slated to remain in effect through April 30, 2020.
This order comes on the heels of Governor Tom Wolf’s March 23, 2020 order, which initially provided for such restrictions in only seven of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. Over the course of the following week, the original order was amended six times to eventually encompass 33 counties, yet was still limited to areas where community spread was assumed. Now, as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases throughout Pennsylvania climbs to nearly 6,000, and the number of cases nationally rapidly approaches 200,000, Pennsylvania’s stay-at-home order reaches every county in the Commonwealth.
Individuals throughout Pennsylvania may only leave their residence for certain specified reasons, as detailed below:
- To perform tasks essential to maintaining an individual’s health and safety, or the health and safety of their family or household members (including pets), such as obtaining medicine or medical supplies, visiting a health care professional, or obtaining supplies they need to work from home.
- To care for a family member or pet in another household.
- To obtain necessary services or supplies for themselves or their family or household members, or to deliver those supplies to others, such as getting food and household consumer products, pet food, and supplies necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences. (This includes volunteer efforts to distribute meals and other life-sustaining services to those in need.)
- To engage in outdoor activity, such as walking, hiking, or running, provided that social distancing is observed.
- To perform work providing essential products and services at a life-sustaining business.
In addition to the above-listed allowable activities, individuals may also leave their homes for essential travel, identified as encompassing the following:
- Any travel related to the provision of or access to the allowable individual activities or life-sustaining business activities.
- Travel to care for the elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons.
- Travel to or from educational institutions for purposes of receiving materials for distance learning, receiving meals, and any other related services.
- Travel to return to a place of residence from an outside jurisdiction.
- Travel required by law enforcement or court order.
- Travel required for non-residents to return to their place of residence outside the Commonwealth.
Governor Wolf’s March 19, 2020 order, calling for the immediate closure of all businesses in the Commonwealth not deemed life-sustaining, remains in effect indefinitely. The governor’s business closure order was revised on March 23, 2020 to conform with the Department of Homeland Security’s guidance on essential critical infrastructure, permitting several categories of business that had initially been slated for closure to continue operations. Businesses which are not deemed life-sustaining under these guidelines but believe that they may qualify for an exemption are directed to complete a waiver form no later than April 3, 2020.
Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, Dr. Rachel Levine, emphasized the approach Pennsylvanians should take. “Staying at home doesn’t mean making a daily stop at the grocery store because you need to get out of the house,” she said. “Staying at home means you must stay home.”
As of April 1, 2020, a total of 34 states throughout the country have enacted some version of a statewide stay-at-home order, while the majority of other states have a patchwork of county-specific stay-at-home orders. Although Pennsylvania’s stay-at-home order provides that enforcement will commence at 8 p.m. on April 1, 2020, the governor has advised that, at this time, Pennsylvania law enforcement will be focused on ensuring that residents are aware of the order rather than enforcement.
If you have questions on the requirements of the order or other questions with respect to your workforce related to COVID-19, please contact Reed Smith’s Labor & Employment COVID-19 Task Force at rsCoronavirusEmploymentTeam@ReedSmith.com.