Connecticut’s Plan to Reopen Businesses – Rules for Phase 2 Businesses

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On June 7, 2020, Governor Lamont issued Sector Rules that Connecticut businesses must follow in order to open during Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan.

Phase 2 (which began on June 17, 2020) includes the following sectors:

  • Amusement parks
  • Hotels/lodging
  • Restaurants (indoor)
  • Museums, zoos and aquariums
  • Indoor recreation (e.g. bowling, movie theaters etc.)
  • Libraries
  • Outdoor events
  • Personal services (e.g. nail salons, tattoo parlors, etc.)
  • Sports and fitness facilities (e.g. gyms, fitness centers, pools, etc.)
  • Film, television and digital media production

Self-Certification Required

Each Phase 2 Business is required to self-certify that it can meet the Sector Rules applicable to its industry prior to opening on June 17.  The certification process is online and can be accessed here.

Once the certification process is complete, businesses can opt to post a “Reopen CT” badge on-site and on social media to advertise adherence to rules and build customer confidence.

Sector Rules Common to Phase 2 Businesses

The following Sector Rules apply to Phase 2 Businesses:

  • Capacity limit of 50% for most businesses to reopen
  • Strict cleaning and disinfection protocols in all settings
  • Employers should encourage those who can work from home to continue to do so
  • Those in high-risk groups or over the age of 65 who can stay home should continue to be permitted to do so;
  • Employees are required to wear face masks or other cloth face-covering that covers the nose and mouth, unless doing so would be contrary to his or her health and safety due to medical conditions (see our prior guidance regarding use of face masks for Essential Employers, which remains in effect)
  • Social and recreational gatherings are limited to those permitted by the Governor’s orders, which most recently provide that effective July 3, 2020, indoor private gatherings are limited to 25 people, and outdoor private gatherings are limited to 100 people (there is a one-time exception for graduations for up to 150 people). At outdoor organized gatherings (e.g. fireworks, concert in a municipal park) there must be 15 feet of space between blankets and a limit of 500 people. Outdoor event venues (e.g. amphitheaters, race tracks) are limited to 25% of the fire capacity and distancing must be followed.

Rules Applicable to Reopening Readiness, Logs, Scheduling and Training

All Phase 2 Businesses that plan to reopen must provide adequate administration and training protocols, as detailed in each set of rules for the various sectors, many of which contain similar requirements, such as:

  • Sharing the applicable Sector Rules with employees
  • Appointing a program administrator who will be accountable for implementing the rules
  • Estimating the required PPE needed for its employees and procuring such materials
  • Instituting a training program and ensure that employees participate in the program prior to reopening. The training must include:
    • Protocols on how to clean and use cleaning products and disinfectants safely
    • If businesses contract on-site cleaning duties, it is the business’ responsibility to ensure that the subcontractor is also appropriately trained
    • Training must be provided during working hours and at no cost to the employee
    • Weekly refreshers on the training are required
  • Maintaining a log of employees on the premises over time to support contact tracing (hotels must also keep a guest log to support contract tracing)
  • Developing cleaning plans and checklists that incorporate the rules and ensure that it is clear which employees are responsible for implementing the plans
  • Completing a thorough cleaning of the facility prior to reopening
  • Staggering shift start/stop times, break times, and lunchtime to minimize contact across employees
  • Employers are responsible for enforcing capacity limits

Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)

Phase 2 businesses must also follow the rules regarding PPE:

For Employees

Employers must provide PPE for employees

  • All employees are required to wear a face mask or other cloth face-covering that completely covers the nose and mouth, unless doing so would be contrary to his or her health or safety due to medical conditions
  • Employees may utilize their own cloth face-covering instead of the one provided by their employer
  • Gloves and eye protection are required when using cleaning chemicals. Latex free gloves are also required for restaurant table servers, and all restaurant employees shall follow FDA guidelines on usage of gloves where appropriate
  •  If businesses do not have adequate PPE, they cannot open

PPE for Customers

  • Customers are required to bring and wear masks or cloth face-coverings that completely cover the nose and mouth unless doing so would be contrary to his or her health or safety due to a medical condition

Rules Regarding Hygiene, Cleaning and Disinfecting

Phase 2 businesses must adhere to strict cleaning and disinfecting rules, as follows:

  • Where possible, hand sanitizer shall be made available at entrance points and common areas
  • Employers must require that employees wash their hands routinely using soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Where possible, employers should make cleaning, disinfectant products and/or disposable disinfectant wipes available near commonly used surfaces
  • Bathrooms must be cleaned and disinfected frequently. Businesses should implement and use a cleaning log for tracking. Clean multiple times per day and hourly during busy times
  • Clean and disinfect common areas, high transit areas and frequently touched surfaces on an ongoing basis (at least daily) and more frequently if used more often. Clean and disinfect shared objects between use
  • Businesses shall follow federal guidelines (CDC, EPA) on what specific products shall be used and how. CDC and EPA guidance is available here and here.

Rules Regarding Health of Employees

Daily Health Check

Phase 2 Businesses must ask employees who return to work on-premises to confirm that they have not experienced COVID-19 symptoms, as defined by the CDC, including cough, shortness of breath or any two of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

In the event of a positive COVID-19 Test:

  • Employees should inform their employers, and follow state testing and contract tracing protocols. Connecticut generally follows the CDC recommended protocols for testing and contract tracing (which are consolidated here), and has developed a statewide voluntary and confidential contact tracing platform, explained here.

Leave

  • Employers shall adhere to federal guidance pertaining to paid leave for employees and provide this guidance to employees, available here. Employers shall post the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) DOL poster, available here.

Whistleblower Protection

  • Employers may not retaliate against workers for raising concerns about COVID-19 related safety and health concerns

Additional Rules by Sector

The sector-specific rules contain additional detailed information and requirements regarding physical distancing, facility capacity, signage, PPE, and more, and are set forth below, along with explanations regarding the capacity limits for each sector.

Amusement Parks

Amusement Parks can reopen at up to 25% capacity, and shall calculate maximum safe occupancy for each ride area to allow for social distancing between groups and to comply with state social-gathering size guidance (set forth above), such as leaving empty seats or rows. Amusement Parks are required to leverage signage, floor markings, and enhanced presence of attendants and other personnel to enforce such occupancy rate. All self-service stations and refillable cup programs must be disabled. Parking staff must direct customers to park in every other spot.  Lines for rides must be rearranged to prevent patrons from having to pass face-to-face at a distance of less than 6 feet. . If applicable, every second or third locker must be disabled.  If independent showers are available, they must be attended and sanitized after each use. Parks should encourage on-line ticket purchase to the greatest extent possible and place markers in ticket lines 10 feet apart to account for families waiting in line together. Seats and restraints on rides must be cleaned frequently.

Additional Sector Rules specific to Amusement Parks are available here.

Hotels and Lodging

Hotels can reopen at 50% capacity to guests with reservations.  Hotels must limit visitors and service providers on site. Concierge service should be provided by phone only.  Room deliveries are to be bagged and left at the front door with a knock to notify guests. Employees are prohibited from entering guest rooms while guests are present (e.g. no in-room bellhop). Non-essential amenities such as water, coffee, mini-bars and ice machines should be removed, and non-essential services, such as valet and coat check, should be closed.  Common areas should be rearranged for social distancing. “Passive Decontamination” of 24 hours after guest check out is recommended. Discrete work zones for cleaning crews should be created to minimize overlap. Ventilation systems should increase percentage of outdoor air where possible.  Management and housekeeping staff shall meet to discuss enhanced cleaning procedures, such as allowing extra time to conduct thorough cleaning and disinfection of rooms between guests. Employers must be sure to compensate housekeepers for time spent on the required cleaning and related precautions.   Keycards should be disinfected at check-in and check-out.

Additional Sector Rules specific to hotels are available here.

Restaurants

Restaurants may open with indoor seating at 50% of an establishment’s regular indoor seating capacity. Outdoor seating is still encouraged as long as the restaurant does not exceed its regular operating capacity and physical distancing can be maintained.  Discreet work zones should be set up for servers to avoid overlap.  Buffett and self-service stands must be closed. Indoor waiting areas must be closed.  Tables should be rearranged to maintain at least 6 feet of space between customer groups, unless barriers that extend 30 inches above table height are installed between table/booths. Non-essential amenities, such as dance floors and pool tables, should be closed. Silverware should be rolled or packaged. The use of no-touch or disposable menus is encouraged, or menus must be sanitized between uses. Bar seating is permitted provided there is no active work are behind the bar or where a barrier has been set up to separate customers from bar space.

Addition Sector Rules specific to restaurants are available here.

Museums, Zoos and Aquariums

Museums, zoos and aquariums may open outdoor and indoor exhibits at 50% capacity, which is calculated as the maximum capacity that is consistent with social distancing guidelines or 50% of the fire code capacity, whichever is lower. The rules require calculation of the maximum capacity for each separate exhibition/room.  .  There must be an isolation plan in case any attendee self-identifies or becomes ill with symptoms of COVID-19.  Performances are permitted outdoors only. Interactive exhibits may only open if they are cleaned thoroughly and routinely. Staff members who are trained in safety protocols should be stationed in discrete exhibit areas to discourage loitering and enforce timed entry and exit.

Additional Sector Rules specific to museums, zoos and aquariums are available here.

Indoor Recreation

Indoor recreation businesses may open at up to 50% capacity, however, businesses should limit customers to the number of customers that can be appropriately supervised by staff to ensure continuous compliance with rules for mask wearing, social distancing and cleaning/disinfecting of equipment and common areas.  If a business does not have a maximum capacity on record, it may determine maximum Phase 2 capacity as 1 person (including employees) per 150 square feet. Indoor waiting areas should be closed and space should be rearranged to maintain a least 6 feet of distance between customers for group activities. These businesses must close or remove non-essential amenities and are encouraged to use no-touch or disposable pamphlets and pricing materials (but if that is not commercially possible, materials must be sanitized between uses).

 Additional Sector Rules specific to Indoor Recreation are available here.

Libraries

Libraries must calculate a maximum occupancy that is consistent with social distancing guidelines or 50% of the library’s fire code capacity, whichever is lower.  For periods of time when high traffic is expected, libraries should post guards at the entrance to count and monitor the number of patrons inside the library.  Libraries must block off every other or every third computer to ensure social distancing, and consider ways of maintaining social distancing in aisles between stacks, including signs to direct traffic patterns, limiting the number of patrons allowed in stack areas or providing access to materials by staff retrieval. They should also encourage patrons to use book drops rather than in-person returns.  Patrons shall be required to bring their own water bottles and water fountain use should be restricted to filling water bottles only.

Additional Sector Rules specific to Libraries are available here.

Outdoor Arts and Entertainment Events

The Sector rules that apply to Outdoor Events differ from those applicable to other Phase 2 businesses. Outdoor Events refer to “individual gatherings for a defined purpose by invitation, taking place on a specific date, and within a specific range of times (e.g. starting at 10 am and ending at 1 pm).”  According to the rules, outdoor events, referred to as outdoor gatherings in the Sector Rules, must comply with the rules governing conduct in public spaces as well.  The Sector Rules for Outdoor Events should be reviewed in their entirety, and are available here.

Personal Services

Personal services (which includes day spas, electrology, estheticians, floating, piercing, spa, tanning, tattoo, waxing, massage therapy, nail and eyelash technicians) may open at 50% capacity and by appointment only. Waiting rooms must remain closed.  Personal services that require a customer to remove a mask cannot reopen in Phase 2. Treatment rooms must be alternated so that no two patients are in the same space consecutively or, if this cannot be done, there must be sufficient time between clients to properly clean and disinfect the rooms. Each towel, robe or linen can only be used once and then be laundered. Individuals handling laundry must wear a mask, gloves, face shield, and protective cover over clothes.

The Sector Rules applicable to personal services businesses are available here.

Sports, Sports Clubs & Complexes, Gyms, Fitness Centers & Pools

Each outdoor sporting event field will be limited to two teams, officials, and limited family members. Indoor sporting events will be limited to 50% of building capacity or 25 people (whichever is smaller) per field, court, pool, rink, etc. For indoor sporting events, capacity limits can be exceeded, but only to include one parent/guardian per athlete. Sports that are allowed to be played include all age ranges.

Gyms, sports clubs, and fitness centers that do not provide organized sports shall operate at 50% capacity. Establishments that require customers to wear a mask while exercising must maintain 6 feet of space between equipment/people. Establishments that do not require customers to wear a mask while exercising must maintain 12 feet of space between equipment/people. Athletes, coaches and customers shall be required to bring their own water bottles. Establishments must disable every other or every third locker, and close steam rooms and saunas. Employees shall clean all equipment frequently and customers must wipe down equipment after each use, including free weights..  If independent showers are available, they must be attended and sanitized between each use. Water fountains are restricted to filling water bottles. For organized games, game balls must be disinfected after each game, and there must be 30 minute intervals in between to prevent overlap, and no high-fives or huddles are permitted.

The Sector Rules applicable to sports, sports clubs, gyms, fitness centers and pools are available here.

Film, Television and Digital Media Production

The Connecticut Office of Film, Television and Digital Media recommends that all film, television and digital media productions follow the June 1, 2020 “White Paper” guidance created by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Tasks Force, which is available here.  It is further recommended that office staff and management should observe the ReOpen Sector Rules for Offices, available here.

Please see our prior advisory regarding the Sector Rules for Offices, available here.

Enforcement of Sector Rules

Executive Order No. 7PP states that a violation of the Sector Rules constitutes a public nuisance under Connecticut regulations.  Thus, all state statutes, regulations, local rules, codes or ordinances pertaining to public nuisances are modified to permit and govern the investigation and enforcement of violations of the Sector Rules.  The Executive Order specifically grants authority to the Local Health Director and District Health Director and Municipal designees to enforce Sector Rules.  Remedies include closure of the business until it is in compliance with the Sector Rules.

What Connecticut Employers Should Do Now

Connecticut employers should become familiar with the above Sector Rules, and all applicable federal and state rules and guidelines, and take steps to comply, including by doing the following:

  • Appoint an administrator or team to manage the reopen process and meet all state-mandated and federal requirements, as well as procure the required PPE and cleaning supplies to meet the cleaning guidelines;
  • Establish and implement necessary policies and procedures (e.g. training, required social distancing, mask wearing), and create or obtain needed signage or other material (e.g. no-touch menus or pricing material, signage to show customers where to stand/walk to maintain social distancing) to comply with all applicable rules and guidance;
  • Plan appropriate scheduling to reduce or stagger the number of staff present in the workplace, and consider which employees can work from home or continue doing so;
  • Maintain records of all steps taken in compliance with the Sector Rules governing reopening;
  • Be cognizant that while the reopening Sector Rules state that employees in high-risk groups and over the age of 65 should continue to stay home, this is permissive and not mandatory. Employers must also follow federal and state age and disability discrimination laws, which do not allow employers to mandate employees who are or perceived to be in high-risk groups to stay home, but require a case-by-case analysis of whether an employee who raises the issue can be reasonably accommodated. If you are faced with such return-to-work issues, seek expert legal advice.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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