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Massachusetts COVID Updates
Rhode Island COVID Updates
- May 10, 2022 - Governor McKee has signed Executive Order No. 22-26 extending the Rhode Island State of Emergency declared due to COVID-19 through June 8, 2022.
- April 18, 2022 - A Florida federal court vacated the CDC transportation mask order. Given the ruling, the TSA will no longer be enforcing the mask mandate on planes, buses, ferries, subways and other public transportation.
- April 12, 2022 - Governor McKee has signed Executive Order No. 22-24 extending the Rhode Island COVID State of Emergency order through May 11, 2022.
- April 8, 2022 - The Fifth Circuit lifted the stay on Executive Order No. 14043, which directs federal agencies to require its employees to get vaccinated. Note: This order applies to government employees (not federal contractors). Click here to view.
- March 18, 2022 - Governor McKee has signed Executive Order 22-23 extending the Rhode Island State of Emergency through April 13, 2022. Governor McKee has not extended or created a new Quarantine/Isolation Order.
- March 14, 2022 - The Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Program ends tomorrow. Employers are not required to provide paid time off beyond the normal 5 days of sick time (if applicable) after March 15, 2022 to their Massachusetts employees and will not be eligible for reimbursement if additional paid time off is voluntarily provided. Applications for reimbursements for time previously paid must be submitted by April 29, 2022. For more information click here.
- March 14, 2022 - The Rhode Island quarantine and isolation order expired March 12, 2022 and has not been extended. Currently there is no order in Rhode Island requiring quarantine or isolation in the event of a positive COVID case or COVID exposure.
- March 11, 2022 - The Rhode Island Department of Health withdrew its vaccine mandate regulation relating to health care workers.
- March 5, 2022 - Following its lifting of the requirement of proof of vaccination in Boston for most indoor businesses, Boston has also lifted its indoor mask mandate.
- March 3, 2022 - The Rhode Island state of emergency order has been extended until April 1, 2022.
- March 3, 2022 - State officials announced the Massachusetts COVID sick leave law will expire March 15, 2022, two weeks prior to the anticipated expiration date.
- February 16, 2022 - The Rhode Island state of emergency order has been extended until March 16, 2022.
- February 11, 2022 - The Rhode Island executive order concerning quarantining and isolation in the event of a positive test or exposure (Executive Order 22-06) has been extended until March 12, 2022 (Executive Order 22-15).
- February 11, 2022 - As expected, the mask order in Rhode Island (Executive Order 21-116) was not renewed. Thus, public spaces and private employers no longer must require mask wearing (regardless of vaccination status or size).
- February 3, 2022 - Pursuant to Executive Order 22-12, the state of emergency order in Rhode Island has been extended until March 4, 2022 and the Quarantine and Isolation Order has been extended until February 14, 2022.
In addition, the RIDOH has once again revised its Isolation and Quarantine requirements, which are incorporated into the Executive Order. The only change is to reduce the time immunocompromised COVID-positive individuals must isolate. Under the new Guidance, these individuals must isolate 10 days (down from 20 days) since the positive test (if asymptomatic) or symptoms first appeared (if symptoms have improved, they have not had a fever in 24 hours and have consulted with their health care provider).
The Guidance references the CDC’s definition of immunocompromised, which it says includes the following:
• Currently getting chemotherapy for cancer
• Being within one year out from receiving a hematopoietic stem cell or solid organ transplant
• Untreated HIV infection with CD4 T lymphocyte count lower than 200
• Primary immunodeficiency
• Taking immunosuppressive medications (e.g., drugs to suppress rejection of transplanted organs or to treat rheumatologic conditions such as mycophenolate and rituximab)
• Taking more than 20 mg a day of prednisone, for more than 14 days
• Other condition(s) as determined by the treating healthcare provider
- January 26, 2022 - The Rhode Island Department of Health updated their guidance regarding isolation last week and again on January 26, 2022 (click here to view guidance). The portion of the guidance regarding isolation for COVID-19 cases and quarantine for close contact is incorporated into Executive Order 22-06 (currently set to expire February 5, 2022).
Finally, the new guidance requires individuals wear a “high-quality mask” during the 5-10 day recovery period, which appears from the link in the guidance to mean a surgical or KN95 level (or above) mask.
In the case of close contact with someone with COVID-19, any adult who has not completed the recommended vaccine doses (including a booster after 6 months for primary Moderna and Pfizer vaccinations and 2 months for Johnson and Johnson) and also has not tested positive for COVID in the last 90 days through a lab based PCR or antigen test (not a home based test) must quarantine for 5 days (with additional precautions on days 5-10). Fully vaccinated and boosted individuals, as well as those who have recently recovered from a COVID-19 infection, must follow the precautions for 10 days after close contact but can work and do not have to quarantine. The precautions include a prohibition on travel by plane or public transportation and visiting immunocompromised individuals. In addition, the precautions require the individual wear a high quality mask.
- January 24, 2022 - The federal contractor vaccine mandate remains on hold per the prior nationwide preliminary injunction. However, on January 24, 2022, the court clarified that covered contractors still had to follow the rest of the order (which requires specific mask rules, notices, and future safety guidance issued by the Safter Federal Worker Taskforce, whatever that may be). The Court refused to rule on the motion as to whether federal contractors and the government could voluntarily continue to include such provisions in their contracts and enforce vaccine requirements outside of the mandate. The Safter Federal Worker Taskforce thereafter issued guidance stating such provisions could be voluntarily included in contracts.
- January 20, 2022 - Governor McKee has signed Executive Order 22-04 extending the Rhode Island mask order (Executive Order 21-116) without change through February 14, 2022.
- January 18, 2022 - The guidance regarding section 6001 of the FFCRA has been updated, which requires health care plans and self-insured employers to pay for COVID tests taken for diagnostic or treatment purposes (but not employer-mandated testing unrelated to diagnosis or treatment).
In addition, the Biden administration has also announced that starting on January 19, 2022, each household can directly order (free of cost) four self-tests from the government at: https://www.covidtests.gov/. Click here to view FAQ sheet.
- January 14, 2022 - Good news for employers everywhere – the Supreme Court (view Decision here) has re-instituted the stay on the OSHA Rule while the litigation is pending in the lower courts. This means that OSHA will not enforce the Rule pending resolution of the merits by the Sixth Circuit. While technically the matter is not yet resolved, and the Sixth Circuit could decide to uphold the Rule down the line, it is highly likely the Sixth Circuit will strike down the Rule given the Supreme Court’s clear reasoning.
- January 7, 2022 - The Rhode Island Department of Health has updated its Quarantine and Isolation Guidance (view here). Like the previous guidance, the guidance only is incorporated into the Rhode Island Order (and thus is a legal mandate) with respect to isolation after having a COVID case for people who have been diagnosed with COVID or have tested positive (not those individuals who think they have COVID or individuals in close contact). Under the new guidance, individuals are only eligible to leave quarantine after 5 days if (in addition to the prior requirements) the individual did not have a severe or “moderate” case of COVID. There is no definition of what is a “moderate” case of COVID.
- January 7, 2022 - Rhode Island Executive Order 22-02 issued extending the Rhode Island emergency order until February 4, 2022.
- January 4, 2022 - Effective January 15, 2022 in the City of Boston, indoor restaurants, bars, entertainment establishments and gyms must require proof of partial vaccination to enter the premises of all customers and employees over 12 (view Boston Public Health Commission Order). Full vaccination is required February 15, 2022 and vaccination of children over the age of 5 is required thereafter.
- January 4, 2022 - The Rhode Island Department of Health has updated the guidance (view here) which is incorporated in the Rhode Island quarantine order. As expected, individuals who have tested positive for COVID only must quarantine for five days following a positive test if the individual does not have a fever, followed by a five day mask recommendation (not requirement). The guidance was also updated to allow unvaccinated close contacts to only quarantine for five days and now requires the five day quarantine for close contacts who are vaccinated but have not received a booster if the original vaccines were received over 6 months ago for Moderna and Pfizer and 2 months ago for Johnson & Johnson. However, the guidance has no effect (yet) as to the close contact piece because the executive order does not incorporate that piece of the guidance into the order and the order itself has yet to be updated. An update may be expected soon.
- January 4, 2022 - The guidance interpreting the large-employer OSHA rule requiring testing for unvaccinated employees now allows for self-read, over the counter covid tests taken by the employee without observation if and only if the tests produce a date and time stamped result (view Question 6 here). These tests are not widely available at this time and would likely be more expensive than the currently available non-digital tests.
- December 27, 2021 - The CDC has reduced their recommended isolation timeframe for those who recover from COVID. While this may influence decisions in states without a quarantine order – such as Massachusetts – this has no effect in states with a quarantine order that sets out its own standards. For example, in Rhode Island, the quarantine order cites the Rhode Island Department of Health guidelines as to positive cases, which have not been updated to reflect the change and still requires a 10 day quarantine period.
- December 22, 2021 - Governor McKee has extended the Rhode Island quarantine and isolation order (Executive Order 21-105) without revision until January 20, 2022.
- December 17, 2021 - On the evening of December 17, 2021, the Sixth Circuit dissolved the Fifth Circuit’s stay of OSHA’s Vaccination or Test Rule. The good news is that in order to provide employers with sufficient time to come into compliance, OSHA will not issue citations for any requirements (such as the notice/policy requirements) of the Rule before January 10, 2022 and will not issue citations for noncompliance with the standard’s testing requirements before February 9, 2022, so long as an employer is exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard.
- December 17, 2021 - Rhode Island passed a new mask order (Executive Order 21-116), which is effective December 20, 2021 and has a current expiration date of January 18, 2022.
Retail and services operations, recreational establishments, bars, restaurants, historical establishments, cultural establishments, venues of assembly and religious organizations (“public places”) must require masking indoors regardless of vaccination if the capacity of the operation is 250 people or more. Public places with a capacity of less than 250 people may provide exceptions to the masking mandate for people who provide proof of vaccination. A seated establishment/venue calculates the 250 capacity threshold by counting seats. An establishment that is not seated may estimate capacity by assuming one person per 60 square feet (so an establishment with 15,000 square feet is presumed to have a 250 person capacity).
Catered events have similar rules, with the distinction that the vaccination exception to the mask requirement applies if there is less than 250 at the event (verses an estimated capacity).
There are various situation exceptions to the mask requirement, such as eating and drinking and working alone in an office or job site where the worker is not expected to be approached by others.
The Rhode Island Department of Health ("RIDOH") is authorized to make rules, regulations and enforce the order. The RIDOH published an FAQ on December 17, 2021 which states that establishments will need to post signage at entrances regarding their policy. View FAQ sheet. Model posters can be found at https://covid.ri.gov/public/workplaces.
- December 10, 2021 - Governor McKee has signed Rhode Island Executive Order 21-115, which extends Executive Order 21-109 (declaring a state of emergency in Rhode Island) through January 8, 2022.
- December 7, 2021 - A Georgia Federal Court has enjoined the federal government from enforcing the federal contractor vaccine mandate on a nationwide basis pending a further order from the court. View Georgia Order.
- December 6, 2021 - Effective December 6, 2021, under the amended CDC travel order, all travelers to the United States – including U.S. Citizens – must obtain negative COVID test taken on the prior calendar day or same day the flight departs to the United States. The prior order accepted tests taken 72 hours prior to departure. The order still allows for an exception for travelers who have recovered from COVID in the last 90 days and recognizes antigen tests, as well as NAAT tests (such as PCR tests). View Amended Global Testing Order.
- November 24, 2021 - Governor McKee has signed Executive Order #21-112, which extends Executive Orders #20-02 (State of Emergency Order) and #21-105 (prior quarantine order, available here) through December 23, 2021.
- November 22, 2021 - The appeal of the stay of the OSHA Rule mandating COVID testing for unvaccinated workers will be heard by Sixth Circuit. As anticipated, OSHA has indicated that it does not intend to prosecute the OSHA Rule during the stay. Interesting, states are again (apparently in reaction to the OSHA Rule) passing anti-vaccine passport laws. Specifically:
- Arkansas. A bill has passed requiring employers to provide a testing exemption to vaccine mandates (the insurer or employee has to pay for the testing, not the employer), as well recognize recovery from prior infection as an exemption. The governor has indicated he would not sign or veto the legislations, which will mean the bill would become law January 13, 2022. View Arkansas law.
- Iowa. In Iowa, employers must waive a vaccine mandate if the employee submits a statement that the vaccine would be injurious to the employee’s health and wellbeing or to the health and wellbeing of a family member: View Iowa law.
- Alabama & Texas. In both Alabama and Texas, the employer cannot mandate vaccination of an employee who has recovered from COVID previously within a particular period of time. In addition, in Texas an employer cannot compel an employee to receive the vaccine who objects to the vaccine for “reason of personal conscience” (which could be read as a stand alone exemption or an exemption tied to religious belief). View Texas Order.
Additional states are expected to pass similar vaccine mandate restrictions that will apply to private employers.
- November 12, 2021 - Governor McKee signed Executive Order 21-109, which extends the state of emergency through December 11, 2021. View Executive Order 21-109.
- November 12, 2021 - The fifth circuit affirmed its stay of the OSHA rule mandating COVID testing of unvaccinated employees working for large employers.
- November 10, 2021 - Over the weekend, the fifth circuit court of appeals issued a nationwide stay of the OSHA large employer testing mandate. In addition, the deadline for compliance with the federal contractor vaccine mandate (applying to employees of federal contractors and subcontractors working on certain new and renewal contracts entered into after October 15, 2021) has been delayed until January 4, 2022.
- November 4, 2021 - OSHA has released its over 400-page rule for private employers with more than 100 employees to test their unvaccinated workers (click here for summary). The compliance date for the major part of the rule is January 4, 2022, with some other components effective December 5, 2021. The rule does not require employers pay for the tests. However, it also does not pre-empt other laws that may require payment.
- October 15, 2021 - The Rhode Island state of emergency order has been extended through November 13, 2021. View Executive Order 21-103. The order suspending charges to employer unemployment accounts for benefits collected for COVID-19 reasons has expired and will not be renewed.
- 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.