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.
Find COVID-19 information related to:
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021
The CARES Act
Charitable & Nonprofit Organizations
Cyberliability & Data Security
Employment & Labor
Intellectual Property & Technology
Reopening Rhode Island
- 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 21, 2021 - As expected, Executive Order 21-57 allows all business to be at 100% capacity and eliminates group attendance restrictions. Business still must comply with the RIDOH regulations. Revised RIDOH Regulations (which are binding law) can be viewed here and revised RIDOH Reopening Guidance (which are best practices) can be viewed here. Businesses no longer have to follow certain cleaning practices or have COVID plans. There are additional industry specific requirements in rare situations (such as live performances, nightclubs and saunas).
- Employers must have masks available to employees.
- Masks must be worn in schools, health care settings, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and public transportation.
- Unvaccinated persons must wear masks when within 3 feet of others. If an unvaccinated employee refuses to wear a mask, then the employer cannot allow them to work, but there is no requirement the employer verify vaccination (we would advise clients just to have a policy regarding the same).
- Businesses must have signs at entrances containing the symptoms and advising those who have the symptoms, who have COVID or have COVID exposure (and are not vaccinated) cannot enter.
- Businesses must exclude people with visible signs of COVID (or who have informed the employer they have symptoms of COVID), but there is no required screening or monitoring other than aforementioned poster.
- Businesses must hang all additional posters that are applicable found on https://health.ri.gov/ or self-created signs with the same information.
- Businesses must “cooperate” with the DOH if contacted in connection with COVID exposures/cases.
- May 20, 2021 - Executive Order 21-56 is an extension of various previous Executive Orders to June 18, 2021. This includes Executive Order 20-19, which provides that charges to employers’ unemployment accounts for individuals who are paid unemployment benefits for reasons related to COVID-19 are suspended.
- May 19, 2021 - The regulations relating to the most recent Rhode Island order have been released and can be viewed here. In addition to expected changes, the requirement for businesses to screen employees and visitors for symptoms has been eliminated. Businesses still have to have the poster at entrances regarding the symptoms. Two updated posters regarding the mask order have been released as well. The poster for a business who will not be requiring masks for vaccinated individuals can be downloaded here. The poster for a business who will continue to require masks despite the new order can be downloaded here.
- May 18, 2021 - Rhode Island has released Executive Order 21-54 dropping the mask requirement except in limited circumstances, such as in a ride share, taxi or public transportation. Businesses (like stores) who are open to the public will now be required to hang signs reminding unvaccinated people to wear masks. Workers in closed offices will only have to wear masks if the worker is unvaccinated and within 3 feet of others.
A second order, Executive Order 21-55, has now opened nightclubs. A nightclub can operate at 50% or, with DBR permission and if vaccine cards/records are presented, 100% if entry is restricted to those who present evidence of full vaccination. That last part is interesting as it is the only instance in Rhode Island where a business needs to actually review vaccination cards/records in order to do something.
- May 10, 2021 - Amusement parks and athletic event facilities open in Massachusetts (with a 50% capacity limit). COVID-19 Order No. 68
- May 7, 2021 - The Rhode Island mask order, Executive Order 21-47, has been released. Masks no longer have to be worn under the following circumstances:
(2) While working (indoors and outdoors) if 3 feet distance can be maintained between workers. This exception does not apply to public places like stores.
No vaccination is needed for these exceptions to apply.
- May 7, 2021 - Governor McKee released Executive Order 21-46. As anticipated, the order increases capacity limits of many establishments to 80%, including offices. In addition, for establishments that had spacing requirements in the prior order, such as gyms, the spacing has been decreased from 6 feet to 3 feet. Unmasked indoor singers still must remain at a 6 foot distance (a decrease from 14 feet). The spacing requirements for offices are contained within guidance incorporated by reference within the order (but are not contained in the order itself) and the new guidance has yet to be released. Also as expected, the indoor personal gatherings have increased from 15 to 25.
Finally, the expiration date on the order is May 27th, which is consistent with McKee’s stated intention to have 100% capacity by May 28th.
- April 30, 2021 - The Rhode Island mask order has been amended, effective immediately, to allow fully vaccinated individuals to not wear a mask if outside and three feet away from others. Executive Order 21-42.
- April 29, 2021 - The Massachusetts mask order has been amended to allow anyone outside not to wear a mask if six feet from tothers. COVID-19 Order 67
- April 27, 2021 - Governor Baker announced his intentions for Massachusetts at a press conference today. Keep in mind until he issues an order, this could change. According to the governor, the following changes will be made:
- April 30 (this Friday): face coverings order will be eliminated outdoors in public places, except for situations where it is not possible to maintain social distance and when required by business-specific guidelines. So far, the mask order will continue indoors.
- May 10: Large venues such as sports arenas can increase capacity to 25%, amusement parks can open at 50% capacity, road races will be allowed.
- May 29: Public gathering limits will increase, street festivals can be held at 50% capacity, bars can reopen with seated service only, restaurants may be allowed to eliminate food service requirement and increase maximum table size to 10.
- Aug. 1: All capacity limits will be at 100% and business restrictions will be eliminated. There is a caveat on the Massachusetts website that this may change depending on the vaccine distribution rate.
- April 27, 2021 - The CDC issued new mask wearing and quarantine recommendations for fully vaccinated people. Keep in mind that the CDC recommendations have no effect on the actual orders or restrictions in place and are often disregarded by local officials. The new guidance essentially says if you are fully vaccinated, you: (a) don’t need to wear a mask indoors with other vaccinated people or with one household of unvaccinated people; (b) don’t have to quarantine after any travel, but should still get tested 3-5 days after international travel (but don’t need to quarantine while waiting for the test) and (c) don’t need to quarantine after close contact with someone with COVID unless living in a group home. View the CDC recommendations here.
- April 26, 2021 - The part of the Rhode Island order restricting spectators at sports played by minors and prohibiting high-risk amateur sports was eliminated effective immediately through Executive Order 21-39. The more important order lifting Rhode Island restrictions starting May 7th has still not been published.
- April 22, 2021 - The Rhode Island Department of Health has revised its COVID-19 Regulations. The two relevant changes are: (a) the breakroom restrictions applicable to all employers have been rescinded; and (b) hotels no longer need to require guests complete and submit a certificate of compliance with out of state travel quarantine/testing requirements.
- April 22, 2021 - Governor Mckee announced he is planning to begin lifting restrictions starting May 7th and again on May 28th. No order has passed to this effect, but the graphic seen here was released during the press conference. Many of the planned changes are significant. For example, McKee plans to lift the mask order (despite the latest extension) starting May 7th to only apply indoors if less than 3 feet cannot be maintained and offices will be able to return to 80% capacity May 7th (100% by May 28th for virtually all industries).
- April 21, 2021 - Governor McKee signed Executive Order 21-37, which extends both the mask order and the order that does not charge employer’s unemployment accounts for benefits paid for COVID-19 related reasons until May 20, 2021 (without change).
- April 19, 2021 - Governor McKee signed Executive Order 21-36, which extends various previously signed Executive Orders to May 17, 2021 without any change. Of some surprise is one of the orders that was extended without change is Executive Order 21-34, which sets forth specific workplace/industry specific restrictions. These restrictions include the continued 50% office capacity requirement (with no provision allowing for additional workers who are fully vaccinated to be present in the workplace).
2. Executive Order 21-29: (re: capacity limits in retail spaces/dining limits); and
- April 9, 2021 - Governor McKee Governor McKee signed Executive Order 21-34. The Order lifts some restrictions to indoor and outdoor gatherings and indoor and outdoor venues of assembly. Per the Order:
2. Attendance at outdoor social gatherings is limited to 50 people. Outdoor catered events with licensed catering on site or in a restaurant may have up to (a) 200 people until May 14, 2021; (b) 250 people beginning May 15, 2021; and (c) 300 people beginning June 4, 2021.
3. Venues of assembly, including convention centers, concert halls, performance venues, spectator sporting event venues and theaters may operate (a) until May 14, 2021, up to 50% of capacity with a cap of 250 people indoors and 500 people outdoors; (b) beginning May 15, 2021, up to 50% capacity with a cap of 500 people indoors and 1,000 people outdoors, and (c) beginning June 4, 2021, up to 50% capacity with a cap of 500 people indoors and 2,000 people outdoors. Any event occurring between May 1, 2021 and May 14, 2021 above the 250 people indoors and 500 people outdoors limit may apply for approval from the DBR to hold events up to 500 people indoors or 1,000 people outdoors by submitting a detailed COVID-19 control plan at least 14 days in advance of the event.
Despite containing the future restrictions listed above, the order expires April 17th.
- April 9, 2021 - The Department of Labor has published the following information regarding ARPA's COBRA Subsidy:
- Model General Notice and COBRA Continuation Coverage Election Notice
- Model Notice in Connection with Extended Election Period
- Model Alternative Notice
- Model Notice of Expiration of Premium Assistance
- Summary of COBRA Premium Assistance Provisions under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021
- COBRA Premium Assistance under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 FAQs
- March 31, 2021 - On Wednesday, March 31st, President Biden released a summary of his administration’s proposed The American Jobs Plan (the “TAJP”). TAJP is a $2 trillion proposal focusing on public domestic infrastructure investments. To help incentivize infrastructure investments and fund the proposals, the TAJP summary includes tax related provisions. Click here to read the Client Alert by PS&H counsel Russell Stein.
- March 30, 2021 - The Rhode Island Department of Health has revised their regulations to eliminate the requirement that all businesses must keep a cleaning log (documenting the date, time, location and procedures for cleaning activities). The requirement tended to be one often missed by employers and was not particularly practical. The underlying cleaning requirements remain intact. Click here to view details.
- March 29, 2021 - The ARPA makes a sweeping change to COBRA, requiring employers to pay for eligible employees (and their family members) COBRA costs for up to six months while also providing employers a tax credit to recoup those costs. PS&H Employment & Labor attorneys explain in their Client Alert, Employers Should Brace Themselves for the ARPA's Burdensome Paid COBRA Mandate.
- March 23, 2021 - The recently passed American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) expands the scope of both the EPSL and EFMLA to allow employers to voluntarily provide additional leave from April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021. The new FFCRA leave under the ARPA is not mandatory. PS&H partners Michael Gamboli and Alicia Samolis detail highlights of the expansion in their Client Alert, New FFCRA Leave Starts April 1, 2021.
- March 22, 2021 - Massachusetts entered Phase IV, Step 1 of reopening through an Executive Order entitled "March 22, 2021 Appendix Adjusting Gathering Limits Set in COVID-19 Order No. 63" and Executive Order 66. Most significantly, there is now no Massachusetts travel order (only travel recommendations) requiring quarantine following any travel. In addition, stadiums, arenas and ballparks will be able to operate at 12% capacity. Gathering limits for event venues increased to 100 people indoors and 150 people outdoors (private gatherings remain at 10 people indoors/ 25 people outdoors).
- March 19, 2021 - Rhode Island has loosened its restrictions pursuant to Executive Order 21-26 and Executive Order 21-27, both of which expire on April 17, 2021. Through the orders:
- The 90 day provision relating to vaccines (requiring the vaccination to have been completed within 90 days) has been eliminated, so that anyone fully vaccinated (following 14 days after vaccination completion) does not need to quarantine after close-contacts or travel. For those who have had COVID and recovered, the 90 day period remains (so that if the recovery was over 90 days ago, the person must still quarantine).
- Office-based businesses may have up to 50% of workers at the same time regardless of the ability to work from home. As before, despite capacity limits, employees who have to perform work onsite can still do so.
- Indoor dining has increased to 75%. There are no restrictions as to the number of households per table, but only 8 people may be seated at a table.
- Capacity at indoor catered events, retail businesses, gyms, religious services and venues of assembly have increased capacity.
- Capacity of indoor social gatherings (outside of catered events) is 15 people (50 outdoors). There are no further limitations related to the number of households.
- March 12, 2021 - Rhode Island Executive Order 21-24 was passed to amend Executive Order 21-22. The order makes small adjustments, such as allowing bars to remain open until midnight in the case of customers who are seated and order food by 11pm.
- March 11, 2021 - President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARPA”). The law contains provisions to help businesses and individuals recover from economic hardships due to Covid-19. Click here to read the Client Alert that provides a brief overview of the changes to the Employee Retention Credit and introduces the Restaurant Revitalization Grant program that is part of ARPA. Click here for a high-level summary of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
- March 5, 2021 - Rhode Island issued Executive Order 21-22, which is a slightly revised version Executive Order 21-17, regarding travel quarantines and business restrictions. The order will expire on April 3rd. The significant changes are as follows:
- Now an individual only has to quarantine after domestic travel to a higher risk state until he or she receives a negative test after entering RI (you will recall the previously-existing order, the test had to be taken after 5 days of the individual’s return to the state, and prior to that order, the test could be taken three days before that return). The other exceptions still apply.
- Pre-event testing is required for social gatherings where there is a caterer if the event exceeds 15 attendees (regardless of whether the event is at a restaurant, caterer or private home).
- Restaurant indoor capacity has increased from 50% to 66% indoors.
- Gyms/sporting facilities capacity has decreased to 1 person per 100 square feet (down from 1 person per 125 square feet).
- February 25, 2021 - Rhode Island issued two new executive orders, which provide lower quarantine standards for asymptomatic individuals who have recovered from COVID in the past 90 days or have completed the final dose of the vaccine within the last 90 days. Specifically, such individuals do not have to quarantine after travel or close contact with a positive individual. With respect to the recovery portion, the 90 day expiration period runs from the onset of symptoms (if there were any symptoms) or positive test date. With respect to the vaccine portion, the exception does not apply if the person lives in an assisted living facility or nursing home or is admitted to the hospital and the "final dose" must be received (meaning either one dose for those vaccines to be approved to be one dose or the second dose for vaccines approved only for two-dose use). Click to view Executive Order 21-17 and Executive Order 21-18.
- February 25, 2021 - Massachusetts has released its new order, effective March 1, 2021, moving the state into Stage 2 of Step III. This will allow for a building capacity limit of 50% for many industries, including office-based businesses. Restaurants will no longer have a percent capacity limit and will be permitted to host musical performances; six-foot social distancing, limits of six people per table and 90 minute limits remain in place. Click to view the Executive Order 65.
- February 23, 2021 - Rhode Island issued Executive Order 21-16, extending the previously issued Executive Order 20-19, allowing former employees to collect unemployment benefits for COVID-19 reasons without it negatively impacting their former employer’s unemployment insurance rate. The order is extended to March 24, 2021.
- February 12, 2021 - Rhode Island issued Executive Order 21-13, which slightly loosens COVID-19 restrictions. The Order expires on March 6, 2021. Of note is that social gatherings (public or private) now may include 2 households (indoors) and 3 households (outdoors). In addition, bar spaces (bar areas) are now open. They must be spaced out so that a maximum of 2 households (4 people total) are in each portion of a bar area (with a time limit of 90 minutes, and not later than 11pm). Churches are also allowed to have 40% (previously 25%) capacity.