At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Ned Lamont declared a public health and civil preparedness emergency in Connecticut. In connection with this declaration, Governor Lamont has issued numerous Executive Orders throughout the pandemic. The Executive Orders were set to expire on September 9, 2020, if they were not terminated earlier.
On September 1, 2020, Governor Lamont extended the existing public health and civil preparedness emergency until February 9, 2021. In addition, on September 8, 2020, Governor Lamont issued Executive Order 9A, which reissues and extends all prior Executive Orders to November 9, 2020. As a result, the Sector Rules, which set forth the rules for workplaces as they reopen in Connecticut, will remain in effect until at least November 9, 2020, and we expect they will be extended further.
Connecticut employers should also be aware of a number of other COVID-19 developments in the state.
Connecticut Moves to Phase 3
On October 8, 2020, Connecticut entered into Phase 3 of its reopening plan. The following capacity rules apply during Phase 3:
- Indoor restaurants, personal services, hair salons, barber shops and libraries can increase capacity from 50% to 75%
- Outdoor event venues (e.g. amphitheaters, race tracks, etc.) can increase capacity from 25% to 50%
- Indoor performing arts venues will now be able to open at 50% capacity
- Bars and nightclubs will continue to remain closed.
In addition, the following gathering size restrictions apply in Phase 3:
- Private, social and recreational gatherings are limited to 50% capacity and capped at 100 people if taking place at commercial establishments or places of business, and capped at 25 people if taking place at private residences
- Graduations and religious gatherings are limited to 50% capacity and capped at 200 people,
- Private, social or recreational gatherings are capped at 150 people
- Graduations and religious gatherings are limited to 50% capacity with 6-foot spacing, with no cap on the number of people
Facemask and social distancing requirements apply to all indoor and outdoor gatherings.
Updated Travel Advisory and Self-Quarantine Rules
On September 16, 2020, Governor Lamont signed Executive Order 9C (E.O. 9C), which, among other measures, expands the testing alternative exemption under Connecticut’s travel advisory. Under the travel advisory, a traveler entering into or returning to Connecticut who has spent 24 hours or longer in an “Affected State” or “Affected Country”, must self-quarantine for a period of 14 days from the time of last contact with the Affected State or Affected Country, for any portion of that 14 day period they spend in Connecticut, or for the duration of their stay in Connecticut, whichever is shorter. The self-quarantine rule does not apply if the individual remains in Connecticut for less than 24 hours.
Effective September 18, 2020, travelers do not need to self-quarantine if they have tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours prior to their arrival in Connecticut or if they test negative at any time following their arrival in Connecticut. In both circumstances, if the traveler has not yet received his or her test results, the traveler must self-quarantine until a negative Covid-19 test result is submitted to the Commissioner of Public Health.
In addition, effective September 18, 2020, all travelers must complete a Travel Health Form to provide information on their travel and quarantine prior to or no later than the day of their arrival to Connecticut. The form is available online here.
Workers who work in critical infrastructure as designated by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, including students in exempt health care professions, are exempted from the self-quarantine requirement when the travel is related to their work. Information regarding these positions is available here.
E.O. 9C also includes enforcement provisions. Any traveler who violates the order by refusing or failing to self-quarantine, or refusing or failing to complete the Travel Health Form truthfully and accurately, shall be subject to a civil penalty of five hundred dollars for each violation. A person assessed with a fine may request a hearing to contest the fine.
Fines for Failing to Wear Masks and Violating Gathering Orders
On September 15, 2020, Governor Ned Lamont signed Executive Order 9B (E.O. 9B), which, in part, provides for issuance of fines for certain violations of prior Executive Orders.
E.O. 9B provides that a fine of $100 can be assessed upon any person who fails to wear a mask while in any public place or location where wearing a mask or face covering is required, except for a person who qualifies for the medical exemption set forth in E.O. 7NNN, or who while outdoors maintains a distance of approximately 6 feet from every other person. Furthermore, the business entity, rather than the employee, is liable for the fine if an employee fails to wear the required mask while at work.
Fines can also be assessed for violation of gathering size restrictions. Any person or business entity who organizes, hosts, or sponsors a gathering that violates the gathering size restrictions set forth above shall be subject to a fine of $500. In addition, any person who attends a gathering that violates the gathering size restrictions shall be guilty of a violation and subject to a fine of $250.
The fines can be issued by the following: “the Commissioner of Public Health, local health directors, district health directors, and their designees; municipal chief executive offices and their designees; and state and municipal police officers, peace officers…special police forces…and public safety departments of institutions of higher learning,” All fines collected shall be distributed to the General Fund.
Medical Documentation Required to Obtain an Exemption from Wearing a Mask Due to a Medical Condition
On August 14, 2020, Acting Governor Susan Bysiewicz issued Executive Order 7NNN (E.O. 7NNN), which clarifies the medical exemption available to those who cannot wear masks for medical reasons. The previous executive order stated that if a person declined to wear a mask due to a medical condition, the individual would not be required to produce verifying medical documentation. (See Executive Order 7 BB). E.O. 7NNN repeals this provision and states that any person who declines to wear a face mask because of a medical condition shall be exempt, “but only if such person provides written documentation that the person is qualified for the exemption from a licensed medical provider, the Department of Developmental Services or other state agency that provides or supports services for people with emotional, intellectual or physical disabilities, or a person authorized by any such agency.” The documentation does not need to name or describe the condition that qualifies the person for the exemption.
 An “Affected State” is a state with a positive case rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents, or higher than a 10% test positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average. An “Affected Country” means a country for which the CDC has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice.