On April 30, 2020, Governor Ned Lamont released a four-stage plan to reopen business in Connecticut when the following conditions were met: (1) sustained 14-day decline in hospitalizations; (2) adequate testing capacity; (3) contact tracing system in place; and (4) sufficient personal protection equipment (“PPE”). Governor Lamont identified May 20 as the tentative reopening date.
Meanwhile, on May 9, the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (“DECD”) issued detailed rules for the business sectors that are permitted to reopen as part of Phase 1 reopening plans. The rules stated that the safeguards will “gradually loosen” as a defined set of public health metrics are met, which is expected to occur “over the coming months through September 2020.”
On May 18, 2020, two days before anticipated reopening, Governor Lamont issued Executive Order No. 7 PP regarding Phase 1 of Connecticut’s Reopening. Pursuant to Executive Order No. 7PP, only the following business may reopen: Restaurants (outdoor only; and no bars), Offices, Retail and Malls, Museums and Zoos (outdoor only), and University Research and Outdoor Recreation (“Phase 1 Businesses”). The specific rules governing each sector are available here: Restaurants, Offices, Museums and Zoos, Retail and Malls, and General Business Rules (which currently only apply to University Research and Outdoor Recreation activities). Hair salons and barbershops , which were initially included Phase 1, were not allowed to open on May 20th.
Executive Order No. 7PP also provides that DECD’s rules for the business sectors, called “Sector Rules,” shall “constitute legally binding guidance” effective at 12:01 a.m. on May 20, 2020. Executive Order No. 7PP also contains an enforcement provision.
On May 29th, Governor Lamont issued Executive Order No. 7TT. This Order allows the reopening of Hair Salons and Barbershops on June 1, 2020 pursuant to the Sector Rules for Hair Salons and Barbershops.
In order to reopen, Phase 1 Businesses must follow the Sector Rules as prescribed. Phase 1 Businesses are not required to reopen, and the decision to reopen rests with individual business owners. All Phase 1 Businesses (except University Research and Outdoor Recreation activities subject to the General Office rules) are required to self-certify that they can meet the rules prior to opening on May 20. The certification process is online and can be accessed here.
Once the certification process is complete, businesses can opt to post a “Reopen CT” badge on-site and on social media to advertise adherence to rules and build customer confidence.
Sector Rules Common to All Sectors
The Sector Rules contain guidance on the following: the reopening process, physical space setup, personal protection, cleaning and disinfecting and health guidance for employees. The specific rules vary by sector, but many aspects are identical.
For instance, the following Sector Rules apply to all Phase 1 Businesses:
- Capacity limit of 50%
- Strict cleaning and disinfection protocols in all settings
- Employers should encourage those who can work from home to continue to do so
- Those in high-risk groups and over the age of 65 should continue to stay safe and stay home
- Employees’ shifts and break times must be staggered to minimize contact (does not apply to Outdoor Recreation or University Research)
- Employees are required to wear face masks or other cloth face covering that covers the nose and mouth, unless doing so would be contrary to his or her health and safety due to medical conditions (see our prior guidance regarding use of face masks for Essential Employers, which remains in effect)
- Hand sanitizer must be made available at entrance points and common areas
- Signage should be posted that reinforces policies such as social distancing, cleaning and disinfection, and personal protection protocols (use of masks, gloves), as well as the state hotline (211) for reporting of potential violations of the rules
- Social distancing markers should be installed in lobbies, common spaces and workspaces to encourage employees to remain 6 feet apart
- Partitions should be used between employees where a distance of 6 feet cannot be maintained. Rearranging of seating/spaces to maintain 6 feet of distance between employees and customers
- Businesses must increase ventilation rates and increase the percentage of outdoor air that circulates into the system, where possible (does not apply to Outdoor Recreation or University Research)
- Businesses must ensure that employees do not share equipment to the extent possible, and if equipment must be shared it must be cleaned after each use
- Touchless appliances should be installed where possible, including: paper towel and soap dispensers, water fountains, trash cans, contactless payments
- Ensure employee wash their hands routinely using soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Social gatherings will be limited to a maximum of 10 people (up from 5 people effective June 1st)
In addition, all Phase 1 Businesses that plan to reopen must provide adequate administration and training protocols such as:
- Appointing a program administrator who will be accountable for implementing the rules (other than University Research and Outdoor Recreation)
- Estimating the required PPE needed for its employees and procuring such materials
- Instituting a training program and ensure that employees participate in the program prior to reopening. The training must include:
- The rules that pertain to each Phase 1 Business
- Protocols on how to clean and use cleaning products and disinfectants safely. If businesses contract on-site cleaning duties, it is the business’ responsibility to ensure that the subcontractor is also appropriately trained
- Training must be provided during working hours and at no cost to the employee
- Weekly refreshers on the training are required
- Maintaining a log of employees on premises to support contact tracing
- Developing cleaning checklists that incorporate the rules
All Phase 1 Businesses must also ask employees who return to work on-premises to confirm that they have not experienced COVID-19 symptoms, as defined by the CDC, including cough, shortness of breath or any two of the following symptoms:
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell.
Additional Rules By Business Sector
With regard to the Office sector, Executive Order No. 7PP extends the prior work from home requirements of Executive Order No 7H Section 1 for non-essential offices through June 20, 2020. https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/Office-of-the-Governor/Executive-Orders/Lamont-Executive-Orders/Executive-Order-No-7H.pdf.  Executive Order No. 7PP clearly provides, however, that offices are permitted to reopen on May 20 pursuant to the Sector Rules. The Sector Rules for Offices indicate that tenants should coordinate with building owners to ensure that the rules are implemented with common areas shared between tenants being the responsibility of the landlord, (e.g. lobbies, elevators, etc.) while individual tenant areas are the responsibility of the tenant (e.g. individual floors, kitchen areas, etc.).
The Sector Rules for Offices encourage social distancing while using elevators by installing visual markers for waiting, installing signage displaying healthy elevator protocols (including passenger limits and safe distances in the elevator), using elevator attendants to manage flow and discourage over-crowding, using floor markers to encourage social distancing, and encouraging alternatives, such as stairs where possible. Offices are to be rearranged to maintain 6 feet of distance between employees and stagger the positioning of desks to avoid employees sitting opposite each other and using partitions between employees where a distance of 6 feet cannot be maintained. Offices are to limit visitors and service providers on-site and shipping and deliveries must be completed in designated areas. Customers and visitors are required to bring and wear mask or cloth covering that completely cover the nose and mouth unless doing so would be contrary to their health or safety due to a medical condition. If a customer or visitor does not have a face covering, they must either be provided one by the employer or not allowed to enter the facility.
Retail and Malls:
Pursuant to Executive Order No. 7PP, shopping malls and retail establishments are permitted to reopen pursuant to the Sector Rules for Retail and Malls. The Sector Rules supersede the “Safe Store” rules issued by the DECD effective April 3, 2020. There are additional requirements for retail and malls in the Sector Rules. For example, customers are required to bring and wear face masks or cloth face covering that completely covers the nose and mouth, unless doing so would be contrary to his or her health and safety due to a medical condition. Employers are responsible for providing PPE to their employees and if they do not have adequate PPE, they cannot open. Stores must consider having designated hours for vulnerable populations, e.g., the elderly or those with underlying health conditions. Physical barriers at checkout points and partitions between employees where a distance of 6 feet cannot be maintained should be installed, as well as visual social distancing markers to encourage customers to remain 6 feet apart. Any clothing tried on by a customer must either be quarantined for 48 hours or thoroughly steam-cleaned prior to returning to the floor.
In addition, malls must close all indoor dining areas, except for take-out, and close all seating areas, such as the food hall. Food and drink establishments (but not bars) with outdoor seating can serve dine-in guests in accordance with the Restaurant Sector Rules. Valet services must be discontinued. “Satellite restrooms” must be closed. Entrance doorways must be made single-direction flow.
Hair Salons and Barbershops:
Hair salons and Barbershops will be open by appointment only. Waiting rooms are closed with customers waiting in their cars until their appointment time. Services are limited to hairdressing and eyebrows and no services are allowed that would require removal of a face masks, such as beard trimming. Blow drying only when necessary. Employees must wear face shields and a face mask or other cloth covering. Customers must wear a facemask or other cloth covering. Nonessential amenities, such as magazines, water, coffee and coat rooms must be closed or removed.
Restaurants (Outdoor Only):
Restaurants may only offer outdoor seating. Reusable menus cannot be used. Instead, paper menus or a white board must be used and customers should be encouraged to view menus on their phone. Tables must be spaced at least 6 feet apart. Restaurants must eliminate buffets and self-service stations and use rolled or packaged silverware and single serving packets for condiments. Servers are to serve specific zones to minimize overlap. In the kitchen, workstations are to be rearranged so that food workers do not face one another and are distanced 6 feet apart where possible. Alcohol cannot be served except in conjunction with the sale of food. Non-essential amenities, such as dance floors, pool tables, and playgrounds should be closed or the items removed.
Currently, the General Business rules only apply to University Research and Outdoor Recreation Activities. On May 19, the DECD defined Outdoor Recreation Activities as the following: equestrian (subject to Dept. of Agriculture guidance), mountain biking, camping, boat tours (subject to 5 passengers),charter fishing (subject to 5 passengers), sport fishing (subject to 5 passengers), go-kart race tracks, golf, driving ranges, tennis, 1:1 training (outdoors and maintaining 6 feet recreational distance), race tracks (practice only, no spectators), campgrounds (subject to Department of Public Health guidance), outdoor shooting range, kayaking, dirt biking (practice only), and mini golf.
On May 18, the Connecticut Department of Public Health (“DPH”) issued Best Practices for dental offices (the “Best Practices”). Although dental offices were not required to shut down due to COVID-19, the DPH advised dental offices to limit procedures to emergency care only. As other businesses begin to reopen, dental offices may also expand operations beyond emergency care, and the Best Practices provide guidelines for dental offices. The Best Practices include assigning a clinician to serve as the program administrator, obtaining at least a 2 week supply of PPE, providing PPE to employees free of charge, thorough cleaning, training, modifications to physical space to maintain social distancing, health screening of patients and employees, extending appointment block and specific rules for aerosol generating procedures.
Enforcement of Sector Rules
Executive Order No. 7PP states that a violation of the Sector Rules constitutes a public nuisance under Connecticut regulations. Thus, all state statutes, regulations, local rules, codes or ordinances pertaining to public nuisances are modified to permit and govern the investigation and enforcements of violations of the Sector Rules. The Executive Order specifically grants authority to the Local Health Director and District Health Director and Municipal designees to enforce Sector Rules. Remedies identified include closure of the business until it is compliance with the Sector Rules.
Executive Order No. 7PP provides that the Safe Workplace Rules for Essential Employers shall remain in effect for all Essential Businesses not otherwise subject to the Sector Rules, such as other types of businesses that did not close. https://portal.ct.gov/DECD/Content/Coronavirus-Business-Recovery/Safe-Workplace-Rules-for-Essential-Employers. A link to our prior guidance on this topic is available here.
Executive Order No. 7PP also provides that the DECD may add, through amendments to the Sector Rules and without any further Executive Order, businesses that will be allowed to operate pursuant to Sector Rules and the effective date on which additional business are permitted to reopen.
In addition, Executive Order No. 7PP specifies that the prohibitions on certain other businesses such as movie theaters, indoor fitness, off-track betting, indoor gyms, fitness centers, and certain day camps are extended through June 20, 2020. All operations of resident camps (as defined by Connecticut General Statutes Section 19a-420(2)) are prohibited. All summer school programs operated by local or regional boards of education cannot begin operations until July 6, 2020.
What employers can should do now
Employers should be familiar with the reopening rules and the applicable Sector Rules governing their businesses. All Phase 1 businesses should appoint an administrator who can manage the reopen process and meet all state-mandated requirements, as well as procure the required PPE and cleaning supplies to meet the cleaning guidelines. Employers should maintain records of all steps taken in compliance with the Sector Rules governing reopening. Employers should also be cognizant that while the reopening Sector Rules state that employees in high risk groups and over the age of 65 should continue to stay home, this is permissive and not mandatory. Employers must also follow federal and state age and disability discrimination laws, and therefore, employers cannot make decisions regarding mandating employees to stay home based on an employee’s age or disability.
 The work from home requirements set forth in Executive Order No. 7H provide that all businesses and not-for-profit entities in the state shall employ, to the maximum extent possible, any telecommuting or work from home procedures that they can safely employ.