May 20, 2020, marks the start of the first phase of Connecticut’s four-phase reopening plan, with certain sectors of the State’s economy permitted to reopen, subject to strict requirements. Businesses eligible to reopen in phase one include:
- Retail businesses (including indoor shopping malls);
- Outdoor recreation activities (including outdoor zoos and outdoor museums);
- Restaurants (for outdoor dining or takeout only); and
- Offices (at up to 50 percent capacity).
Many of the requirements for reopening are already familiar, as essential businesses in Connecticut and elsewhere have been subject to these requirements for weeks or months. For example, face masks must be worn, social distancing must be maintained, capacity must be limited, and in stores, Plexiglas dividers must be installed at check-out counters.
Seating areas (including in mall food courts) must remain closed, and food may be purchased for takeout only. Malls must increase security patrols to ensure that social distancing and “no large gatherings” requirements are followed. Social gatherings are restricted to a maximum of five people.
Beyond these basics, however, the Governor’s office has released a comprehensive set of reopening rules for businesses, which can be accessed here. In addition, Connecticut has established a 211 hotline for employees and customers to report potential violations of the State’s rules for reopening, and employers must post clear signage that includes the hotline.
Special Requirements for Office Reopenings
The State has published an extensive list of rules that offices must comply with in order to reopen. We provide here a non-exhaustive summary of certain of these rules.
All businesses subject to these rules are required to complete the self-certification on the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) website to receive a Reopen CT badge, prior to reopening. The self-certification form can be found here.
Connecticut businesses that plan to reopen their offices must appoint a “program administrator” who is accountable for implementing the State’s rules for reopening offices. These businesses must also share the State’s rules for reopening offices with their employees, and inform the employees of any other measures being taken in response to COVID-19.
Requirements of Office Work
Employees who are able to work from home are encouraged to continue doing so rather than returning to the employer’s office, and employees age 65 or older, as well as those with underlying health conditions, should not be required to go into the office.
Prior to reopening, these businesses also must institute a training program and ensure employee participation in the program. The training must include the Governor’s reopening rules for offices, as well as protocols on how to clean and use cleaning products (including disinfectants) safely. Any on-site subcontractors must also receive appropriate training.
The training is to be provided during working hours, at no cost to the employee, and it must be presented “in the language and at the literacy level of the employees.” Weekly refreshers on these policies must also be provided.
Employers must also stagger shift start/stop times and break times to minimize contact between office employees, and must maintain a log of employees in the office at any given time, to support contact tracing. On-site office visitors and service providers must be limited, and shipping and deliveries must be completed in designated areas. Common areas and restrooms must be cleaned and sanitized frequently.
Employers must provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to their employees. Employees are permitted to use their own cloth face covering over that provided by their employer, if they so choose.
Customers, clients, and other visitors to offices are likewise required to wear face masks in the office. If a customer or visitor does not have a mask, then they either must be provided one by the employer, or they must be denied access to the office. Businesses that do not have adequate supplies of PPE may not reopen their offices.
In office settings where employees are working alone in segregated spaces (e.g., cubicles with walls, private offices, etc.), employees may remove their masks. However, employees must wear a mask or face covering from the time they enter the office building until the time they arrive at their cubicle/work station, and at any time they are leaving their work station and moving around common areas (e.g., in hallways and stairwells, going to the restroom or break room, etc.). Employees working in shared settings (e.g., areas open to the public, shared offices, or similar settings) must wear a face covering when they are at their work station.
Daily Health Checks
Offices that are reopening must also conduct a daily health check, which includes asking employees who are returning to work in the office to confirm they have not experienced CDC-defined COVID-19 symptoms and to monitor their own symptoms, including cough, shortness of breath, or any two of the following symptoms: fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell. Employees who are sick should stay home.
Connecticut Reopening Resources
- The complete list of rules for office reopenings can be found here.
- Connecticut's detailed rules for reopening of retail establishments and malls are available here.
- The rules applicable to restaurants are available here.
What's Coming in Later Phases in Connecticut?
Many businesses remain shuttered and will not be permitted to reopen or resume operations until later phases of the Connecticut reopening process. These businesses include hair and nail salons; indoor gyms and fitness studios; indoor movie theaters, bowling alleys, and other indoor recreational venues; and casinos.
Phase 2 reopenings, which may include certain of these types of businesses, are currently projected to begin on June 20, 2020. It is also possible that outdoor events, including weddings and graduations, may be permitted in Connecticut as soon as June 20, 2020. The State currently anticipates that the reopening process will continue in phases through September 2020.
The facts, laws, and regulations regarding COVID-19 are developing rapidly. Since the date of publication, there may be new or additional information not referenced in this advisory. Please consult with your legal counsel for guidance.
DWT will continue to provide up-to-date insights and virtual events regarding COVID-19 concerns. Our most recent insights, as well as information about recorded and upcoming virtual events, are available at www.dwt.com/COVID-19.