Last week, I posted here about how several states, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, has new quarantine rules for out-of-state travel. For example, the Pennsylvania Department of Health posted this information on its “COVID-19 Information for Travelers.”
Here’s what it said on July 2, 2020 (my emphasis in bold italics and underlined):
If you have traveled, or plan to travel, to an area where there are high amounts of COVID-19 cases, it is recommended that you stay at home for 14 days upon return to Pennsylvania. If you travel to the following states [listed below], you will need to quarantine for 14 days upon return:
A reasonable person would read that as:
- If you go to certain states listed below, you must quarantine for two weeks when you get back to Pennsylvania. That’s an order.
- Otherwise, if you travel out-of-state elsewhere, you may (but don’t have to) quarantine upon your return. That’s a suggestion.
I even called the Department of Health and spoke with someone who agreed with my assessment. I did ask to talk to Governor Wolf about this, only to be told that he wasn’t available 🤔; neither was Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine. 🤔
Why is ‘recommend vs. need’ so important? You see, under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, an employee is eligible for up to two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order).
But then after my post went live, something happened. That something is the Department of Health quietly changing its guidance. Check out what the guidance now (my emphasis again):
If you have traveled, or plan to travel, to an area where there are high amounts of COVID-19 cases, it is recommended that you stay at home for 14 days upon return to Pennsylvania. If you travel to the following states [listed below], it is recommended that you quarantine for 14 days upon return:
Very interesting🤨. All of a sudden, we’ve gone from “need to quarantine” to “recommended that you quarantine.” That means that there is no mandate or order. It’s now just the PA Department of Health’s two cents. If you are returning to Pennsylvania from Florida, for example, you don’t have to quarantine as far as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is concerned.
But local employers may want to go a step further by requiring that employees returning from COVID-19 hotspots spend the next two weeks at home, working remotely if possible. That’s your prerogative. However, if employees cannot work remotely, then they are not eligible for FFCRA paid sick leave unless they qualify under one of the other five leave criteria.
As for employers in other states, stay abreast of state and local health department updates. Check-in with your employment attorney from time to time. And, above all, take reasonable precautions to maintain a safe and healthy workplace.