Pennsylvania Employer Quarantine Requirements

March 16, 2021 Advisory

In contrast to a number of states’ decisions to rescind COVID-19 restrictions, Pennsylvania has doubled down on some of its pandemic-related quarantine requirements. On March 1, Gov. Tom Wolf signed an Order, which—subject to a few narrow exceptions—mandates a two-week quarantine for any employee in Pennsylvania who has had “close contact” with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. In relevant part, the Order states:

An employee who is a close contact of a person who is diagnosed with or test positive for COVID-19, as defined by the Pennsylvania Department of Health or local health department in accordance with CDC guidance, may not continue to work at an in-person business, and must quarantine in accordance with the direction of the Pennsylvania Department of Health or the local health department unless Pennsylvania Department of Health Update #551 PA-HAN-551 or its successor is applicable.”

By reference to Pennsylvania Department of Health Update #551 PA-HAN-551, the Order excuses from the obligation to quarantine employees for whom all of the following criteria are satisfied:

  • the employee is fully vaccinated (i.e., two or more weeks have passed following either receipt of the second dose in a two-dose series, or the only dose of a single-dose vaccine);
  • fewer than three months have passed since the employee’s receipt of the last dose in the series; and
  • the employee has remained asymptomatic since being exposed to close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

If one or more of these criteria is not satisfied, the exposed employee must quarantine under the Order.

Notably, the requirement that no more than three months can have elapsed since vaccination appeared in the CDC’s “When to Quarantine” guidance until March 12, 2021, when the CDC updated its guidance to remove the three-month requirement for vaccinated individuals. Now, the CDC’s guidance states, “People who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated against the disease and show no symptoms.” This revision makes a big difference for employees who were among the first in the nation to get vaccinated; however, Pennsylvania employers should take note that—at least for now—Gov. Wolf’s Order relies on quarantine guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, rather than on the recently updated CDC guidance.

Gov. Wolf’s most recent Order extends and modifies his Nov. 23, 2020, Order, which contemplates numerous potential consequences for employers who violate the pandemic-mitigation requirements:

  • Orders are enforceable as a disease control measure under the Disease Prevention and Control Law. Citations may be written under the Pennsylvania Administrative Code and/or the Pennsylvania Disease Prevention and Control Law. The decision whether to issue a warning or a citation is made on a case-by-case basis and determined by the unique circumstances of each encounter.
  • Persons who fail to comply with an order may be fined between $25 and $300.
  • Following a complaint about a business, the Department of Health will send a warning letter informing the business of the potential consequences, including fines and closure if the business is not compliant with the mitigation orders. If a business continues to receive complaints, it risks referral to the Pennsylvania State Police or regulatory agencies, further fines and possible closure.

Thus, as some areas of the nation have started to relax their COVID-19 restrictions, employers in Pennsylvania should remain focused on compliance with quarantine and other pandemic-mitigation requirements set by the Commonwealth. 

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