The countdown has begun—Connecticut is planning to reopen some businesses tentatively on May 20, 2020. Like Massachusetts that has a 4 phased plan for reopening (you can read about that on our blog found here), Connecticut plans to take a gradual approach to reopening the state. Under that approach, the first set of businesses will start reopening when the state sees a sustained 14-day decline in hospitalizations, has adequate testing capacity, has a contact tracing system in place, and has procured sufficient PPE. Connecticut believes these goals will be met by May 20 and that reopening will begin. Employers will also be required to follow various Sector Rules regarding reopening. Those are currently available for the businesses that Governor Ned Lamont anticipates reopening on May 20. Compliance with the new Sector Rules will require quite a lot of preparatory work. Below we have laid out who can open on May 20 and some steps employers need to take to do so.
Although Governor Lamont has indicated that Connecticut will take a gradual approach to reopening, the state has not outlined that approach other than to indicate that offices (continuing work from home where possible), restaurants (outdoor only, no bar areas), remaining retail, outdoor recreation, personal services (hair), museums (outdoor only), zoos (outdoor only), and university research are slated to reopen on May 20. Details about future reopening dates and loosening of the Sector Rules will occur at later dates based on public health metrics (the state says details are to follow).
All businesses that reopen on May 20 will have to meet and follow the Sector Rules established by Governor Lamont’s office for the specific type of business. Those can be found here. For example, offices will only be able to be at 50% capacity. Additionally, offices must: encourage employees who can work from home to do so; develop a reopening plan and appoint an administrator of that plan; stagger employee shifts to minimize contact; maintain a log of employees; limit visitors; determine the amount of PPE needed and procure it; develop a cleaning plan; train employees, prior to returning to the office, on the new rules including cleaning protocols; maintain social distancing in the office by rearranging workspaces and providing elevator queuing; install social distancing markers; post signs reiterating new policies including social distancing protocols, cleaning and disinfection protocols, personal protection protocols, and that employees must stay home if sick/experiencing symptoms; close all non-essential spaces such as coat rooms; require employees to wear face masks provided by the employer; require gloves and masks when employees are using cleaning products; and clean shared equipment between use. Also, wherever possible, offices have to make hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes available; install touchless appliances; and increase ventilation including circulation of outdoor air. Offices must also perform a thorough cleaning and complete a self-certification on the Department of Economic and Community Development’s website before reopening.
While these requirements may seem burdensome, they are meant to help protect employees, businesses, and customers. Employers cannot reopen until they have crafted and implemented these new policies and procedures and provided required training to their employees, so businesses in the industries that can reopen in the first phase need to start planning right away.
Employers who have questions about any of these issues, or who are looking for guidance in preparing to reopen their doors, should feel free to contact us at (413) 737-4753. In the meantime, Skoler Abbott continues to monitor all developments related to the COVID-19 crisis, and we will continue to publish updates on our blogs.