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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: March 28, 2020 10:50 AM
From: Senator Doug Mastriano
To: All Senate members
Subject: BACK to WORK INITIATIVE: Pennsylvania Healthy Citizens & Healthy Businesses.
In the near future, I will introduce legislation setting conditions for the immediate reopening of all businesses willing to comply with specific Center for Disease Control (CDC) health mitigation measures, as well as the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines, during the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis. 

I invite you to co-sponsor the “Back to Work Initiative: Pennsylvania Healthy Citizens & Healthy Businesses.”

The United States of America and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are confronted by a contagious virus, which has necessitated certain emergency measures to curtail its spread. 

This encompasses social distancing of at least six feet between people in every aspect of the day, sanitary health practices, health conscience behavior and – among other considerations listed by the CDC – a sanitary work place. 

These are designed to ameliorate the spread of COVID-19. 

Chief among the considerations is the need to avoid the spike in infected people that sadly occurred in other nations.  This spike overwhelmed their health-care facilities and left scores of people not receiving the help they required.               

A key action by Governor Tom Wolf in this dynamic and fluid environment severely restricted and limited what he called "non-life supporting" business activity, which he hopes reduces the spread of the virus.
The endeavor to "flatten the curve” was triggered by the Governor's order March 19 that initially called for the closure of all businesses across the state deemed “non-essential.”

The closure order impacted tens of thousands of businesses, millions of jobs and puts at stake the economic well-being of our citizens. 

Hardest hit among these are: single parent families, young couples, the independently employed (who are not eligible for unemployment), non-profits and small businesses.  There is a real and present danger that the cure – in the end – may be worse than the virus. 

A health-conscience approach should be immediately adopted to mitigate the destruction of the most vulnerable in our society. 

There is a science-based way to balance preventative measures to blunt the spread of COVID-19, while authorizing "non-life sustaining businesses" to resume operations and to reopen for business. 

The key to this is that "non-life supporting businesses" agree to comply with CDC mitigation guidance to contain the spread of the virus among the workforce and population. 

The preponderance of the "non-life sustaining businesses" closed by Governor Wolf are categorized by OSHA as “low to medium risk” at spreading the disease, without implementing the CDC's health-conscience best practices. 

These include businesses with less than 10 employees, surveyors, construction, contractors, roofers, excavators, auto sales, etc. 

OSHA describes low risk businesses and functions as "lower risk jobs are those that do not require contact with people known to be, or suspected of being, infected with SARS-CoV-2 nor frequent close contact with (i.e., within 6 feet of) the general public. Workers in this category have minimal occupational contact with the public and other coworkers. 

For those businesses considered higher risk at spreading the contagion, strict implementation of CDC as well as OSHA best practices to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 should prevent them from being a public health risk." (OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19).       
The way ahead for Pennsylvania is to offer businesses deemed "non-life supporting" to resume operations, but under certain conditions.  

To reopen, managers, owners and staff agree to comply with CDC and OSHA COVID-19 mitigation measures until the state of emergency has concluded. 

These businesses do not require a waiver, but agree to enforce CDC and OSHA policies during the COVID-19 health crisis and will be responsible for meeting these standards, if inspected by an authorized inspector from the PA Department of Health or local law enforcement. 

If found out of compliance or in violation during an unannounced inspection, the business will be given 24 hours to remediate any deficiencies. 

Timely and full compliance is required to continue operating the business during the crisis. 

An appeals process will be established at the Department of Labor to handle any concerns of disagreement with an inspector's findings, and monthly reports will be filed with the relevant committees in the House and Senate (Health, Labor, etc). 

Businesses that resume operations during this health crisis agree to abide by the following healthy practices delineated by both the CDC and OSHA:
  • Implement a generous sick leave policy, without retribution, for anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath);
  • Employees who develop COVID-19 symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath) will immediately be sent home and not return until cleared by a healthcare professional;
  • Sick employees must remain at home until their symptoms have passed and/or they receive a clean bill of health from their healthcare provider, or state/local health officials;
  • Employees with sick family members, or family members at higher risk (elderly, those with a weakened immune system, heart conditions, respiratory disease, chronic medical condition, diabetes, etc), should not work in a public area and all efforts should be made for them to work from home;
  • Employers allow as many employees as possible to work from home (tele-work);
  • Employers must ensure that there is a minimum of six feet between workers, as well as six feet maintained between the employee and the public;
  • Employees at higher risk of suffering severe consequences or death by COVID-19 (elderly, weakened immune system, heart conditions, respiratory disease, chronic medical condition, diabetes, etc), will not be permitted to work in a non-life supporting business until the crisis has passed; and
  • Employees with a sick family member will not return to work until that family member is cleared by a professional healthcare worker.
 Additionally, the business will agree to:

  • Implement sanitary policies and a regular cleaning schedule to reduce exposure to COVID-19;
  • To disinfect work spaces and areas with access to the public, in addition to work spaces and especially the restrooms;
  • Have adequate cleaning supplies available, as well as disposable paper towels, etc.The business will also ensure that tissues, hand sanitizer, gloves, medical masks and other necessary sanitary products are available on site should an employee need them;
  • Online meetings will be encouraged rather than in-person;
  • Employees will not share tools, equipment, phones, desks, computers or electronics;
  • Employers will agree to allow employees to remain home to care for sick relatives if necessary;
  • Employers will develop flexible emergency leave policies during this health crisis and to have non-punitive measures in place for those that need time off due to health concerns;
  • Employers will not require their employees to have a COVID-19 positive test result to take sick leave;
  • Employers will suspend non-essential operations and go to "minimal manning" to reduce the chances of spreading COVID-19;
  • Employers adopt "flexible work sites" that allows telework, etc. to reduce likelihood of exposure;
  • Break rooms and cafeterias should be closed;
  • Postpone all non-essential meetings;
  • Limit public interaction and use curbside pickup, and online meetings; and
  • Seek ways to increase building/office ventilation and circulation.
We all take the COVID-19 health crisis very seriously. 

By implementing the above best practices, the spread of the virus will be contained, while at the same time allowing Pennsylvania to reopen for business.   

Many of the businesses shut down by the recent order are considered “low to medium risk” of spreading the virus, without implementing the above described requirements. 

Mandating the implementation of these common sense and life-saving measures, as described by CDC and OSHA, will ensure the safety of our citizens and the survival of our businesses. 

This balanced and common sense approach is in the best interest of Pennsylvania, without compromising the health and welfare of our people. 

I invite you to join me as a co-sponsor of this important proposal. If you have any questions, please contact Scot Pitzer in my office at spitzer@pasen.gov.

Introduced as SB1103