COVID-19's impact on business and everyday life is significant. Partridge Snow & Hahn has assembled a team of attorneys with diverse practice areas who regularly advise companies on how to handle these impacts from both a legal and business perspective.
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Massachusetts COVID Updates
Rhode Island COVID Updates
- October 15, 2021 - The Rhode Island state of emergency order has been extended through November 13, 2021. View Executive Order 21-103.
- October 6, 2021 - The Rhode Island Department of Health ("the RIDOH") has allowed health care facilities to submit attestations of noncompliance which essentially will allow them to have until October 31st to meet the vaccine requirement if required for patient care. So far one individual health care worker has received a compliance order from the RIDOH in response to his statements to the press that he planned to continue to provide health care despite in violation of the regulations. View recent actions/orders here.
- October 5, 2021 - Massachusetts released the new poster relating to the extended Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave law. View the poster here.
- September 30, 2021 - A Rhode Island Federal Court denied healthcare workers' request for a TRO against the enforcement of Rhode Island's vaccine mandate. View here.
- September 30, 2021 - Rhode island Executive Order 21-99 was issued extending the State of Emergency and allows employees to collect unemployment benefits for COVID-19 reasons without it counting against employer accounts through October 30, 2021.
- September 30, 2021 - Rhode Island Executive Order 21-100 was issued extending the quarantine order until October 30, 2021.
- September 30, 2021 - A Rhode Island Superior Court denied a firefighter union's TRO request seeking that the Court invalidate a vaccine mandate.
- September 29, 2021 - The Rhode Island Department of Revenue’s Emergency Regulations published in May 2020 regarding withholding of state income taxes for employees working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic expired and have not been renewed. The Regulations had provided that the income of employees who are nonresidents temporarily working outside of Rhode Island solely due to the pandemic would continue to be treated as Rhode Island-source income for Rhode Island withholding tax purposes.
- September 29, 2021 - Governor Baker extended the Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Provisions (MA EPSL) until April 1, 2022 or until the fund is exhausted. The extension does not provide for additional time off, it just allows employees who have not used the 40 hours to continue to use the time and also expands the use of the leave to include time off to help a family member get vaccinated and recover from any illness or disability related to the immunization.
- September 24, 2021 - Safer Federal Workforce Taskforce issued COVID-19 Workforce Safety: Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors. The guidance provides additional details as to how the mandate will work, as follows:
- New covered contracts of the type identified in our September 10th Client Alert entered into after November 14th and renewals entered into by October 15th (“Covered Contracts”) must contain the vaccine mandate that all employees performing work in connection with a Covered Contract (“Covered Employee”) and all employees working at a worksite where a Covered Employee works (“Covered Worksite”) are fully vaccinated by December 8, 2021. “Fully vaccinated” includes all recommended doses of the usual FDA approved vaccines, as well as the WHO approved vaccines (like AstraZeneca). An employee is considered to work at a Covered Worksite if they work in the same facility/property as a Covered Employee unless the employer can demonstrate there is no interaction between the Covered Employee and other employee(s), including potential contact in areas common areas like stairwells. The definition of what employees work in connection with a Covered Contract is very broad and includes indirect work (such as Human Resources, legal review, billing, etc.). An employee who works fully in a remote capacity in connection with a Covered Contract is still required to be vaccinated. However, their remote location is not considered a “worksite” if no other employees work there, meaning the members of the Covered Employee’s household do not have to be vaccinated.
- There are flow down requirements making primary contractors on Covered Contracts responsible for including the mandate in their subcontracts, which flows all the way down the contracting chain (so subcontractors would be required to include the clause in their contracts with subcontractors). This flow down requirement does not apply to subcontractors only providing products.
- Contractors/subcontractors are required to review the vaccine card, pharmacy/health record or the local health agency record (or a photo/scan) to verify vaccination. There are exceptions for religious and medical accommodations. For mission critical positions, agencies may allow a contractor 60 days after starting work to comply with the mandate. There is no exception for prior infection. The guidance states the order supersedes the state anti-vaccine passport orders/regulations to the contrary.
- All individuals (even visitors) at a Covered Worksite must be required to wear masks if unvaccinated or if vaccinated and in a high area of transmission with a narrow exception when working in an office and for medical/religious accommodations. There is a general requirement that the worksites follow CDC requirements on masking and distancing and track the transmission rate on a weekly basis. Contractors/subcontractors must designate a person who is responsible for compliance.
- September 17, 2021 - Governor McKee signed Executive Order 21-97 extending : (1) The State of Emergency over the Delta variant (Order 21-86); and (2) The Executive Order requiring Masks in Schools (Order 21-87) through October 16, 2021.
- September 9, 2021 - The President announced a COVID-19 Action Plan (the "Plan") and released two orders that contain surprisingly broad measures. The Plan will impact many businesses and organizations across the nation. Read more.
- September 2, 2021 - Governor McKee signed a new and revised Isolation and Quarantine Order. The order now requires:
(2) Those who are not fully vaccinated and are in close contact with someone with COVID (as defined in (1)) must: (a) quarantine for 10 days or 7 days if a negative test is obtained 5-7 days after the last exposure unless an exemption applies and (b) must get tested immediately after being notified of being a close contact and, if negative, get tested again 5-7 days after last exposure or immediately if symptoms develop during quarantine. Exemptions include certain exposures in school settings, certain health care works where there is a staffing shortage and individuals who have recently recovered from COVID.
Executive Order 21-94 expires October 1, 2021 and still provides for quarantine for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals with COVID and provides for a 14 day quarantine period for unvaccinated persons with close contact exposure living in a congregate setting.
- September 1, 2021 - Governor McKee signed Executive Order 21-92 providing that changes to employers' accounts for individuals who are paid unemployment benefits for reasons related to COVID-19 continue to be suspended. This Order takes effect immediately and expires on October 1, 2021.
- September 1, 2021 - The town of New Shoreham (Block Island) passed an Emergency Ordinance, effective immediately, requiring masks in indoor public places where 6 feet distance cannot be easily and continuously maintained.
- August 31, 2021 - The IRS issued Revenue Procedure 2021-39, which allows issuers of tax-exempt private activity bonds to continue to hold TEFRA hearings via teleconference through March 31, 2022. Read more.
- August 20, 2021 - Cities and towns in Massachusetts have issued mask mandates or announced the mandates were or will be passed. The common theme among all of the mandates is directed at public spaces (spaces open to the general public) not private, employee-only businesses. Most are individual mask mandates, but some are directed at the business themselves and some require business postings. None have exceptions for vaccinations. Click here to view specific city and town mandates.
- August 19, 2021 - Governor McKee signed a new state of emergency order due to the Delta variant, set to expire September 18, 2021, as well as an order mandating K-12 schools to require individuals to wear masks as dictated by protocol developed by the Rhode Island Department of Health (also set to expire the 18th).
- August 18, 2021 - Rhode Island Department of Health has issued the final rule relating to mandatory vaccines for health care providers. The group of people impacted by the vaccine mandate is very broad. Essentially, there are two groups affected by the rule.
The individual mandate extends to both unvaccinated:
(a) “health care workers”, meaning anyone who is employed by or works at a health care facility and has direct contact with patients and health care providers, regardless of whether they are directly involved in patient care (so it also includes clerical/housekeeping/security/maintenance personnel); and
(b) “health care providers” meaning anyone – including those who do not work at a health care facility - directly involved in patient care or potentially exposed to infectious agents that can be transmitted from person to person and who either is licensed to or otherwise lawfully provides health care services (there is no definition of health care services). It is important to note: (a) licensing does not matter and (b) in the non-health care facility context, if someone is licensed to provide health care services but does not actually provide health care services, the mandate does not apply.
Both groups of individual unvaccinated workers are required to (a) be vaccinated by October 1, 2021 (absent a medical exception), meaning all doses have been received of one of the authorized vaccines by the FDA, WHO or DOH (so if someone got the J&J by October 1st, they are compliant, there is no requirement any immunity is obtained before the 1st); and (b) if the vaccine was obtained out of state, email a form showing vaccination status. Oddly, there is no deadline for (b)(the DOH already has everyone’s vaccine records who got the vaccine in the state, which is why the mandate only applies to out-of-state vaccines). Unvaccinated health care workers also have the mandate to do the twice a week testing and unvaccinated health care providers have the requirement to wear a procedure or higher grade mask.
Someone is medically exempt from the vaccine if a physician, physician assistant or advanced practice registered nurse signs a “medical exemption” stating the provider is exempt from the COVID-19 vaccine because of a medical reason in accordance with the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) guidelines. Also oddly, once the person gets the exemption that does not work for the health care facility, it appears they just keep it, as there is no requirement it be emailed or provided to the DOH. There is no religious exemption or exemption for individuals who have recently recovered from COVID.
Penalties are discretionary and are not automatic. So the person’s license is not automatically suspended and a fine does not automatically issue unless the DOH decides to take action. However, the DOH has the authority to take action against the person’s license (if applicable) and to impose penalties under 23-1-25. http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/TITLE23/23-1/23-1-25.HTM. This statute allows the DOH to impose up to a $100 fine and/or imprisonment of not more than 30 days for violating the Rule without further notice. The DOH could also issue a compliance order to a specific individual, which if then is still not complied with, could result for each day of the violation a $300 fine and/or 90 days imprisonment.
- August 16, 2021 - Governor McKee signed Executive Order 21-85, which extends Executive Order 20-19 (the order suspending charges to employers’ unemployment accounts for benefits collected relating to COVID-19 reasons) to September 1, 2021.
- August 12, 2021 - Rhode Island has announced its plan to mandate vaccines for all health care providers licensed in the state effective October 1, 2021 (allegedly there will also be testing requirements for non-vaccinated health care providers starting September 1, 2021). While the initial announcement appeared extremely broad, to date no orders, regulations or proposed regulations have been released and thus the actual mandate may look very different than the announcements.
- August 12, 2021 - Governor McKee has signed Executive Order 21-84, which again extends the order requiring quarantine for (a) those diagnosed with COVID-19 and (b) for unvaccinated individuals who have had known close contact to with someone with COVID-19 until September 1, 2021.
- August 4, 2021 - Massachusetts mandated certain nursing homes require their workers to be vaccinated by October 10, 2021. Those facilities that fail to keep documentation showing that 75% or more of their workers are vaccinated by that date could receive an order to stop accepting new admissions until the 75% threshold is reached. Click to view COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Order No. 2021-4.
- July 28, 2021 - The CDC has updated its guidance to recommend that fully vaccinated individuals wear masks indoors while in locations of substantial or high transmission: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html. No areas of RI fall within the CDC’s substantial or high transmission designation and the following counties in Massachusetts fall within the designation: Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes, Nantucket and Suffolk.
- July 26, 2021 - The Town of Provincetown, Massachusetts has announced that a mask mandate was enacted in the emergency meeting of the Provincetown Board of Health, Select Board and Barnstable County last night. View mandate details here. No information has been released as to the penalties or enforcement mechanisms of the mandate. According to the press release, the mandate applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals while indoors at restaurants, venues, bars, fitness centers, lodgings, shops, offices and spaces open to the public, as well as to unvaccinated individuals outdoors when social distancing cannot be maintained.
- July 23, 2021 - COVID-19 has made remote work more prevalent. Employers considering making these work-from-home arrangements permanent need to be prepared for the compliance issues that arise when the remote work crosses state lines. PS&H attorneys Russell Stein and Alicia Samolis were recently interviewed by Providence Business News to discuss some of these concerns. Read more.
- July 16, 2021 - Governor McKee has signed Executive Order 21-79, which extends the order that allows individuals who are paid unemployment benefits for reasons related to COVID-19 to collect against the general fund (meaning employers are not penalized). The order now expires August 14, 2021 unless otherwise extended.
- July 14, 2021 - Governor McKee has signed Executive Order 21-78, which extends the order requiring quarantine for (a) those diagnosed with COVID-19 and (b) for unvaccinated individuals who have had known close contact to with someone with COVID-19 until August 12, 2021.
- July 6, 2021 - Governor McKee has signed Executive Order 21-76, which terminates several previous Executive Orders and essentially ends the Rhode Island COVID safety requirements for businesses. The Executive Order terminates Executive Order 21-68, which (a) imposed requirements regarding quarantining after travel, (b) mandated that businesses comply with RIDOH Regulations (which required employer screening, adoption of COVID safety plans and several other safety measures) and (c) gave RIDOH the authority to promulgate Regulations. It also terminates Executive Order 21-69 (the mask order) which among other things required unvaccinated individuals to wear masks indoors and businesses to remind those individuals of this requirement.
- June 18, 2021 - Rhode Island has extended its mask order (with a slight modification relating to indoor live performances) and its quarantine/business restriction order (eliminating the capacity limits to nightclubs). Both orders now expire July 17, 2021. Surprisingly, the travel quarantine for unvaccinated individuals entering Rhode Island from international trips or states deemed to be high risk still remains in effect (despite most states dropping their travel orders). Finally, the order providing employers’ unemployment accounts will not be charged for COVID related claims has also been extended to July 17, 2021. View Executive Order 21-69, Executive Order 21-68 and Executive Order 21-70.
- June 15, 2021 - Governor McKee signed Executive Order 21-66, which extends the Quarantine Order without change to July 14, 2021. This order requires quarantine for individuals who have COVID-19 or who are not vaccinated/recently recovered from COVID-19 and have a close contact with someone with COVID-19.
- June 7, 2021 - The new Massachusetts emergency paid sick leave law requires employers of all sizes provide paid time off for COVID-19 related reasons to Massachusetts employees, as as mandates a new notice be distributed. Read client alert, Massachusetts Mandatory Emergency Paid Sick Leave Starts Now, where PS&H partners Michael Gamboli and Alicia Samolis explain the law's requirements.
- June 2, 2021 - Governor McKee released two orders that drop the requirement for unvaccinated individuals to wear masks if closer than 3 feet from others outdoors (so no one has to wear masks outside). Executive Order 21-62 and Executive Order 21-63.
- May 28, 2021 - Employers need to monitor developments concerning the ARPA as it relates to COBRA. PS&H employment attorneys highlight two items in the recent IRS FAQ publication that expand the potential reach of the ARPA. Click to read client alert, IRS FAQ Expands Free COBRA Entitlement
- May 25, 2021 - PS&H partner Alicia Samolis presented Legal Issues Surrounding Employer Vaccination Mandates, Incentives and Tracking (And Other Return-To-Work Issues) to the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce. View presentation.