Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Introduce New Restrictions in Response to Rising COVID-19 Infections

Pennsylvania

On November 17, 2020, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine issued two new orders in response to rising levels of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth. These orders (1) place certain restrictions on individuals traveling into Pennsylvania, and (2) provide increased and more detailed requirements related to the use of face coverings in the Commonwealth.

The travel order requires that all travelers entering Pennsylvania from other countries and states, whether a returning resident or a visitor, must have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering the Commonwealth. If the traveler cannot obtain a negative COVID-19 test, he or she must quarantine for 14 days upon his or her arrival in Pennsylvania or until he or she obtains a negative COVID-19 test result, whichever is earlier. The travel order takes effect on November 20, 2020. Importantly, this order does not apply to individuals who are travelling to or from Pennsylvania for work or medical reasons.

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Philadelphia Expands Paid Sick Leave During COVID-19

On September 17, 2020, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed the Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL) bill. The PHEL amends Chapter 9-4100 of the Philadelphia Code to create additional sick leave protections for Philadelphia employees during a public health emergency — specifically COVID-19.

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Pennsylvania Federal Judge Strikes Down Key Provisions in Governor Wolf’s COVID-19 Orders

In a decision issued on September 14, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge William S. Stickman IV ruled that certain restrictions ordered by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf to slow the spread of COVID-19 were unconstitutional. Judge Stickman’s decision comes after several other Pennsylvania courts upheld the restrictions as being within Wolf’s authority and courts in other states had upheld similar types of orders.

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With Pennsylvania Non-Competes, As in Life, Timing is Everything

In Pennsylvania, it has long been known that waiting until after the start of employment to have an employee sign a non-competition agreement comes with the real risk that the agreement will be unenforceable for lack of consideration.  Last week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court provided definitive guidance on the issue in Rullex Co., LLC v. Tel-Stream, Inc., et al., holding that a non-competition agreement entered into after an employee commences employment fails for lack of consideration unless the essential provisions of those restrictions were agreed to before the employee started work.

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The Philadelphia Area Transitions from Red Phase to Yellow, Allowing More Business Activity

On April 22, Governor Tom Wolf outlined a three-phase plan for reopening Pennsylvania businesses, following a color-coded system: Red, Yellow and Green. As the COVID-19 threat continues to slow, each county has been moving gradually through the phases. According to the Commonwealth, the phases are designed to decrease the continued spread of COVID-19 while relaxing restrictions and promoting the resumption of business activity.

Following is a brief description of each phase:

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Pennsylvania Grants Waivers Allowing Non-‘Life-Sustaining’ Businesses to Resume Operations

On March 19, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf ordered all Pennsylvania businesses that are not considered “life-sustaining” to shut down their physical operations by March 21 at 12:01 a.m., which was later amended to March 23, 2020 at 8 a.m. Governor Wolf’s order will remain in effect until further notice. Although there are several industries that are listed as non-life sustaining, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), has granted several waivers permitting specific businesses in industries that are not life sustaining to continue operating. For example, although construction companies generally must cease construction, they are permitted to construct health care facilities and conduct emergency repairs.

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