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Frequently Asked Questions for the Governor's and Secretary of Health's Mitigation, Enforcement and Immunity Orders

Updated: May 13, 2021

The Order of the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health for Mitigation and Enforcement dated November 23, 2020 was subsequently amended on March 1, 2021April 1, 2021 and May 13, 2021. The below Frequently Asked Questions reflect the amended Order of April 1, 2021.

Click here for Frequently Asked Questions pertaining to the May 3, 2021 announcement and May 11, 2021 announcement about amending and lifting the mitigation orders.

General

Are the Orders mandatory?
Yes, it is mandatory that all applicable businesses follow the standards set forth in the Orders. These Orders are issued under the Disease Prevention and Control Law (Act) and are enforceable under that act.

Is there a waiver process or exceptions to the Governor's and Secretary of Health's Mitigation, Enforcement, and Immunity Protections Orders and guidance to promote worker and business safety?
No, there is no waiver process. The Orders and guidance apply to all businesses other than health care providers.

Telework

Are businesses required to telework?
All businesses are strongly encouraged to conduct their operations in whole or in part remotely through individual teleworking of their employees in the jurisdiction or jurisdictions in which they do business.  Businesses choosing to conduct in-person business operations, must comply with the Order and all guidance issued by the Wolf Administration, the Department of Health, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cleaning, Mitigation, and Other Requirements

When an employee has tested positive for COVID-19, what type of cleaning is required?
Facilities must clean and disinfect all spaces, especially commonly used rooms and shared electronic equipment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidance on appropriate cleaning. If more than 7 days have passed since the person who is sick visited or used the facility, additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary.

Businesses are to continue routine cleaning and disinfection regardless of whether there is a known positive case of COVID-19. This includes everyday practices that businesses and communities normally use to maintain a healthy environment.

Can a business use a third-party vendor or third-party service for cleaning?
Yes, businesses can use an established or new vendor to comply with cleaning requirements.

If a facility is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or another federal regulator and cannot comply with some of the cleaning requirements because it cannot open up doors and windows in a clean room environment, what should it do?
The business should follow FDA regulations or the rules of other federal regulators on this topic and should consider the safety of its facility and employees while complying. 

Does an entire facility need to be shut down in order to do appropriate cleaning?
No. Businesses with a campus of multiple facilities or a building with multiple offices only need to close and clean the building or area of the building where an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 has worked. However, businesses should be mindful of bathrooms, breakrooms, building lobbies and other frequently visited or common areas where the person who tested positive may have been.

Are building security desks required to have shields or barriers to separate guard staff?
Shields or barriers are not required at security desks; however, businesses should consider how much interaction their security staff have with customers or employees. If security staff have interactions with the public, the Department of Health (Department) recommends the installation of a barrier. Per the Secretary's Order Requiring Universal Face Coverings, as amended, and future updates, masks or face covering must be worn.

If a company is currently staggering employee breaks, but is not staggering shift start and stop times, is it required to implement staggered shift start and stop times as well?
Employers should take all possible steps to encourage physical distancing, including staggering shift start and stop times, as well as staggering breaks.

What are the physical distancing guidelines for elevator usage?
Businesses should use their best judgment based on the square footage of the elevator. The Department recommends that business allow as few people as possible to use an elevator at one time, while also discouraging crowds gathering while waiting for the elevator. Floor markings or other signage can be used to show 6-foot distances.

If a business adheres to the physical distancing and best practices can it open additional registers?
Businesses with checkout counters and registers must take appropriate steps to stagger registers and counter use so that those areas may be cleaned appropriately. Businesses must also install plexiglass shields at registers and check out areas or take other measures to ensure physical distancing.

Do businesses need to designate specific shopping time for high-risk persons?
Yes, businesses must designate a specific time at least once every week for high-risk and elderly persons to use the business.

Businesses are required to check the temperature of employees. Can these temperature checks be done by employees at home through self-screening or symptom screening?
Businesses must implement temperature screening before employees enter the business, prior to the start of each shift or, for employees who do not work shifts, before the employees start work, and must send employees home that have an elevated temperature or fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

Businesses may allow employees to screen at home and should implement a policy for employees to report their temperature or symptoms to the employer on a daily basis. This policy must include a provision that would not allow employees with symptoms to come onto the worksite. This can be done in several ways:

  • If thermometers can be procured:
    • Employers may take their employees' temperatures on site utilizing best practices and physical distancing.
    • Employees may self-screen taking their temperature at home with a business-provided thermometer or their own personal thermometer.
  • If thermometers cannot be procured:
    • Employers may ask their employees to conduct a questionnaire-based screening at the worksite.
    • Employees may self-screen by conducting a questionnaire-based screening at their home.

Daily self-screening is encouraged even if the employee is not scheduled to enter the worksite. For example, if an employee is off for the weekend, performing a self -screening is not required but is good public health practice.

Employers should consider encouraging their employees to use the COVID ALERT PA MOBILE APP and its symptom screening tool.  

Is there any specific guidance regarding the sourcing/procurement of thermometers?
No. Employers should use regular supply opportunities or visit the Department of Community and Economic Development's (DCED's) Business-2-Business portal.

Do businesses have the authority to issue temperature checks for customers or the general public at a facility?
Businesses should consult with their counsel about the scope of their authority to require temperature checks.

Is a building owner or management company required to take the temperatures of tenants?
The building owner is not required to conduct temperature screenings of tenants.

Does the requirement to conduct temperature screenings only apply after an employer is aware of a potential or actual exposure?
No, employers must implement temperature screening before employees enter the business, prior to the start of each shift or, for employees who do not work shifts, before the employee starts work, whether or not the employer is aware of a potential or actual exposure .

What do I do if an employee is sick during the workday?
If an employee becomes sick during the workday, or reports to work with symptoms, the individual must be sent home immediately. An employee who has symptoms of COVID-19 before reporting to work should follow the employer's policy for calling out sick the employee's supervisor and remain home.

Employees who test positive for COVID-19 who are not in a health care setting need to isolate at home for the time period indicated in PAHAN 518 or its successor. If an employee is awaiting COVID-19 test results due to exposure or symptoms they should follow the Department's guidance in COVID-19 Patient Instructions for Self-Isolation While Awaiting Laboratory Results.

Businesses are encouraged to institute flexible leave policies.

If someone arrives at work in one location and is temperature screened, then drives to another work facility, does the person have to be temperature screened again?
Employers are not required to conduct temperature screening in more than one location.

If someone begins their workday in another state and drives into Pennsylvania, do they have to complete a temperature screening once they get to their work destination in Pennsylvania?
If the person checked their temperature or symptoms at their starting workplace or at home they do not need to be rescreened; however, if they were not screened at their initial location, they must be screened upon commencing work in the Commonwealth.

How does a business go about implementing temperature or symptom checks for staff that work in a leased facility, but do not work for the business (e.g., cleaning staff)?
The employer is responsible for implementing temperature screenings or implementing self- screening policies for their employees. In the example, the employer of the cleaning staff is responsible for instituting a temperature screening policy.

Contact Tracing, Quarantine, and Isolation

What is the definition of isolation?
Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. For information on discontinuing non-healthcare isolation see PAHAN 518 or its successor.

What is the definition of quarantine?
Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. More information on quarantine duration can be found in PAHAN 559 or its successor. Information on quarantine for individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can also be found in PAHAN 559 or its successor.

What is a close contact?
The CDC defines a close contact as "Someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period* starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated."

More information from the CDC can be found here.

See PAHAN 533 or its successor for more information on determining a close contact.

What do I do if I identify my employees as a close contact?
Those who are a close contact should be immediately sent home from the worksite and should not return to the worksite until the quarantine period has ended.

Does this apply to all businesses including "life sustaining" or "essential"?
The Governor's and the Secretary's Orders and subsequent amendments are applicable to all industries unless listed as an exception in Section 11 of the Secretary's Amended Order.

Do all close contacts need to quarantine?
Close contacts must quarantine according to Department guidelines. See  or its successor for information on quarantine duration and information on quarantine for individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

What happens when my employee was in close contact with someone who is positive, but asymptomatic?
Persons who are in close contact with a person who tested positive but is asymptomatic are still required to quarantine according to Department guidelines. See PAHAN 559 or its successor for information on quarantine duration and information on quarantine for individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Capacity Limits

How do the Governor's and the Secretary's  Amended Orders affect my business?

All in-person businesses, including those businesses in the entertainment industry, serving the public within a building or defined area may operate at up to 75% of maximum capacity. Businesses should be mindful that discrete events or gatherings held within a larger business, such as a movie theaters, are subject to the gathering limitations in the Orders.


The Order says "businesses serving the public." If I don't have a public facing element of my business, at what capacity am I allowed to be open?
All businesses are strongly encouraged to conduct their operations in whole or in part remotely through individual teleworking of their employees in the jurisdiction or jurisdictions in which they do business.  Businesses choosing to conduct in-person business operations, must comply with the Governor's and the Secretary's Amended Orders and relevant guidance.

My business is outdoors. What capacity am I allowed to be open?
Businesses serving the public who operate fully outdoors may operate at up to 75% of the maximum capacity stated on the applicable certificate of occupancy at any given time unless specifically subject to other requirements as noted in the Governor's and the Secretary's Amended Orders.

How do you define outdoor vs. indoor?
Indoor businesses operate in a fully or largely enclosed (three-walls or more). Outdoor businesses operate in a completely or largely open-air space (open on at least two sides).  A tent is allowed for outdoors; however, to be regarded as outdoor space, tents must be open on two sides. Enclosed tents are considered indoor spaces. Enclosed structures, including enclosed tents, would limit air circulation and undo the benefits of being outdoors.

What are considered businesses in the entertainment industry?
The entertainment industry includes concert venues, museums, movie theaters, arcades, casinos, bowling alleys, private clubs, and all other similar entertainment, recreational or social facilities.

How are public buildings like libraries and government buildings that serve the public allowed to operate?
Those who can telework, are strongly encouraged to telework. Those working in person should limit capacity to 75%.

Do the Orders apply to the judiciary or court functions, such as jury selection and trials?
The court system is responsible for taking the necessary actions to protect the safety of court staff, court users, judges and the public, guided by general CDC and Department recommendations. 

Are amusement parks allowed to be open under the Orders?
Amusement parks are allowed to operate under the Amended Orders at 75% capacity. Businesses should be mindful that discrete events or gatherings held within a larger business are subject to gathering limitations.

All individuals present must comply with physical distancing and Secretary's Order Requiring Universal Face Coverings, as amended, and future updates.

Can a business in the entertainment industry that may otherwise be closed host an event or gathering?
Yes, businesses may host events, but must follow all gathering limitations and restrictions imposed by the Amended Orders and other relevant guidance.

Do the capacity limitations include staff and employees?
Yes, all individuals present count towards gathering limitations and must comply with the Secretary's Order Requiring Universal Face Coverings, as amended, and future updates, physical distancing guidelines, and other appropriate mitigation practices.

Are personal care services allowed to operate under the Orders?
Personal care services may operate according to the Governor's and the Secretary's Amended Orders at up to 75%  occupancy. Additionally, entities regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of State should follow the appropriate guidance from their licensing board.

Are gyms and fitness facilities allowed to operate under the Orders?
All gyms and fitness facilities, are permitted to continue indoor operations at up to 75% occupancy, but should prioritize outdoor physical fitness activities. All individuals present at a fitness facility must comply with the Secretary's Order Requiring Universal Face Coverings, as amended, and future updates, and practice physical distancing and other appropriate mitigation practices.

Bars, Restaurants, and Catered Events

How do the Amended Orders affect restaurants?
The Amended Orders now allow restaurants to continue indoor operations at 50% if they are not self-certified, and at 75% if they are self-certified.   No outdoor capacity limitations exist for restaurants, except that physical distancing of six feet between tables/groups must be followed, the Orders requiring masking as they have been amended must be complied with, and patrons must be seated in order to be served food or alcohol.  In addition to these requirements, restaurants must follow The Guidance for Businesses in the Restaurant Industry Permitted to Operate During the COVID-19 Disaster Emergency to Ensure the Safety and Health of Employees and the Public, dated May 27, 2020, as updated October 9, 2020, along with any future updates.

How do the Amended Orders affect bars and nightclubs?

Bar service is permitted so long as physical distancing, face covering, and other mitigation measures are employed to protect workers and patrons.  Nightclubs are allowed to operate at 50% occupancy so long as physical distancing, face covering, and other mitigation measures are employed to protect workers and patrons.  Bars and nightclubs may only serve patrons who are seated.

Can physical barriers be used in place of physical distancing requirements in restaurants, bars, and nightclubs?

All businesses must adhere to the occupancy levels permitted in the Orders and, if applicable, the self-certification process.  Any barriers installed at bar or counter seating areas do not change the overall occupancy limits of an establishment.  Restaurants, bars, and nightclubs may only serve patrons who are seated. If barriers are not installed between seats in a bar or counter seating area, physical distancing requirements must be followed.   

Are nightclubs able to self-certify and increase occupancy?

No, nightclubs are not an eligible entity under the Open & Certified Pennsylvania program administered by the Department of Community and Economic Development.

Do I need to order a meal at a restaurant, bar, or nightclub to purchase an alcoholic beverage?

No. The Amended Orders removed the requirement to order a meal with an alcohol purchase.

Is there a specific time when restaurants, bars, and nightclubs must stop serving alcohol? The Amended Orders removed the previous requirement for restaurants, bars, and nightclubs to stop serving alcohol at 11:00 p.m. All businesses must comply with other applicable Pennsylvania law regarding alcohol consumption and service.

Can breweries, distilleries and wineries still operate?
All businesses in the retail food services industry, including restaurants, wineries, breweries, private clubs, and bars, are permitted to provide take-out and delivery sales of food, as well as dine-in service in both indoor and outdoor seating areas so long as they strictly adhere to the requirements of  the Governor's and Acting Secretary of Health's Amended Orders, as amended, and The Guidance for Businesses in the Restaurant Industry Permitted to Operate During the COVID-19 Disaster Emergency to Ensure the Safety and Health of Employees and the Public, dated May 27, 2020, as updated October 9, 2020, along with any future updates.

What restrictions must be followed for dining establishments?
Indoor and outdoor dining must follow the limitations identified in the Governor's and the Acting Secretary of Health's Amended Orders as well as The Guidance for Businesses in the Restaurant Industry Permitted to Operate During the COVID-19 Disaster Emergency to Ensure the Safety and Health of Employees and the Public, dated May 27, 2020, as updated October 9, 2020, along with any future updates.

What is the definition of indoor vs. outdoor dining? Would a tent with walls be considered outdoor?
Indoor dining operates in a fully or largely enclosed (three-walls or more). Outdoor businesses operate in a completely or largely open-air space (open on at least two sides).  A tent is allowed for outdoors; however, to be regarded as outdoor space, tents must be open on two sides. Enclosed tents are considered indoor spaces. Enclosed structures, including enclosed tents, would limit air circulation and undo the benefits of being out of doors.

Events and Gatherings

What is an event or gathering?
The Amended Orders define an event or gathering as a temporary grouping of individuals for defined purposes, that takes place over a limited timeframe, such as hours or days. For example, events and gatherings include fairs, festivals, concerts, or shows and groupings that occur within larger, more permanent businesses, such as shows or performances within amusement parks, individual showings of movies on a single screen/auditorium within a multiplex, business meetings or conferences, or each party or reception within a multi-room venue.

Conversely, groups of people who share a space within a building in the ordinary course of operations, such as in an office building, classroom, licensed child care and non-licensed school-age programs, production floor or similar regularly occurring operation of a business or organization, are not events or gatherings

What are the occupancy limits for an event or gathering under the Amended Orders?

Indoor events and gatherings are limited to 25% of maximum occupancy. Outdoor events and gatherings are limited to 50% of maximum occupancy.

How do I calculate my venue's outdoor events or gatherings occupancy if my venue doesn't have an established occupancy limit as defined by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)?

When no NFPA code capacity is published or available for outdoor events or gatherings venues, establish occupancy as 67 people per 1000 square feet and then apply the applicable maximum occupancy limit in for outdoor events and gatherings required in the Orders.

What if I am hosting an event or gathering within my business?

Under the Amended Orders, gatherings and events such as meetings, wedding receptions, catered events, concerts, conferences, fairs, festivals, sporting events, performances, and similar events are subject to specific conditions. Specifically, facilities and venues must follow the occupancy limits for any discrete gathering or event within the facility or venue.

All facilities and venues must enforce physical distancing requirements, which may further limit occupancy.

Why do indoor events have a lower capacity than outdoor?
The virus more easily spreads indoors person-to-person, meaning any person at an indoor gathering is at a higher risk, according to a nearly universal assessment of experts. The CDC advises that COVID-19 can spread, in some cases, through the air to people who are even more than six feet away from an infectious person when indoors.

Do the gathering limitations in the Orders include staff?
Yes, all individuals present count towards gathering limitations and must comply with Secretary's Order Requiring Universal Face Coverings, as amended, and future updates, and physical distancing guidelines.

Are event hosts required to maintain a list of all guests in attendance?
Yes. Event hosts must maintain a list of all guests in attendance including phone number and expected location 14 days after the event. This information may be critical for contact tracing or further outreach. Information provided to the Department in the course of its disease control function is confidential and is not released unless to do so furthers the purpose of the act or is required by law.

Do attendees need to be physically distanced while at an event?
Yes. It is imperative that attendees practice physical distancing while attending an event. Organizers should maintain a minimum 6-foot physical distancing radius between household members or individuals that arrive together. Consider both horizontal space (side to side) and vertical space (front to back) when physical distancing.

Do the Amended Orders apply to funeral homes?
Yes. Additionally, licensed funeral homes should refer to the State Registrar Notice for more information.

Are fairs permitted under the Orders?
Fairs are an event and are subject to the indoor and outdoor gathering limitations.

How do the Orders apply to drive-in movie theatres or events held at drive-in theaters?
Drive-in movies or events may still occur under the Amended Orders. The drive-in complex or special event organizers must post and enforce rules regarding physical distancing, mask wearing when outside of the car, and generally encourage people to stay in their cars and have strict procedures for reducing the number of people at points where persons might congregate, such as restrooms or concession stands.

How should events with both indoor and outdoor components be handled under the Amended Orders?
Events with both indoor and outdoor components are subject to both the indoor and outdoor capacity provisions of the Amended Orders. Events should also prepare and make arrangements for poor weather. 

Can conference facilities operate per the  Amended Orders?
A conference facility that is able to create physical barriers between discrete events in separate physical locations may follow the occupancy limitations per event as long as there is sufficient division between the physical locations.

The facility must ensure that common spaces like lobby areas, bathrooms, and hallways are cleaned frequently and persons are not congregating. Businesses must comply with the Secretary's Order Requiring Universal Face Coverings , as amended, and any future updates, and physical distancing guidelines.

Do the event limits apply to each room within a facility that is hosting an event, or to the space as a whole?
Facilities that host events are required to apply the gathering limits to each discrete event space.

Do wedding receptions or other private catered events need to follow the Amended Orders or should they follow the Dining Guidance?
A gathering as defined above, whether at a business, an event venue or a private home, is considered an event and is therefore limited to the gathering limitations as defined in the Amended Orders.

Must health care providers, emergency services, and other similar entities follow the gathering limits when participating in trainings, vaccine clinics, testing sites, blood drives, or lifesaving services?
No, these instances would not be considered gatherings. However, organizers should take all public health precautions including physical distancing and following the requirements in the Secretary's Universal Face Covering Order, as amended, and any future updates.

Must food pantries, homeless shelters, soup kitchens or other similar entities follow the gathering guidance?
No, these instances would not be considered gatherings. However, organizers should take all public health precautions including physical distancing and following the requirements in the Secretary's Universal Face Covering Order, as amended, and any future updates. These entities should also follow all other industry specific guidance.

Schools and Extracurricular Activities

Do the Amended Orders apply to schools?
The Amended Orders do not apply to educational instruction but do apply to school activities within and outside of the classroom that are not related to educational instruction, including, but not limited to, assemblies, school board meetings, staff meetings, sports, and extracurricular activities.

Do the event and gathering limitations in the Amended Orders include students and staff?
Yes, the Amended Orders include all individuals present at the event or gathering, regardless of whether they are students, staff, or others.

Do the Orders apply to school buses?
The Amended Orders do not apply to school buses. The Department of Education includes a list of best practices for safely transporting students.

Are school board meetings considered gatherings?
Yes. A school board meeting is a gathering and must follow the indoor gathering limits, and members must practice physical distancing, and comply with the Secretary's Order Requiring Universal Face Coverings, as amended, and any future updates. Local education agencies should consider alternative ways to host these meetings including virtual.

Do the Amended Orders apply to school cafeterias and college dining facilities?
No. The Amended Orders do not apply to school cafeteria food services and college dining services, as those services are not considered to be a private catered event or offered by a restaurant.

See the Department of Education's website for additional guidance and resources on schools.

Exemptions

Do the Amended Orders restrict religious gatherings?
Churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and other places of congregate worship are specifically excluded from the gathering limitations during religious services. These institutions are strongly encouraged to enforce physical distancing and other mitigation measures at their gatherings. Conventions, retreats, and other gatherings that may be sponsored or held by these religious entities that are not the actual worship service are required to comply to comply with the Amended Orders. Attendees at churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and other places of congregate worship are required to wear face coverings in compliance with Secretary's Order Requiring Universal Face Coverings, as amended, and future updates, and are strongly recommended to practice physical distancing.

Enforcement

How are the Governor's and the Secretary's Amended Orders being enforced?
These Orders are enforceable through actions brought under the Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955 and the Administrative Code of 1929.

Pennsylvania State Police, Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Pennsylvania Department of Health, Pennsylvania Department of State and local law enforcement are all enforcing violations of all orders.

Sanctions and penalties for violation of the Amended Orders will be progressive discipline that begins with a warning to any suspected violator. Enforcement will focus on businesses where people congregate.

How should municipalities and local governments exercise their enforcement authority?
State and local officials should use best judgment in exercising their authority and issuing implementation directives and guidance. All such decisions should appropriately balance public health and safety while ensuring the continued delivery of critical infrastructure services and functions.

What if a county health department or local municipality has issued its own Order?  Do I have to follow that one or this one?
Both, to the extent statewide Amended Orders are not inconsistent; however, persons must comply with the more restrictive of the Orders if there is a conflict. County and municipal health departments and local jurisdictions are permitted to have more restrictive, not less restrictive, public health orders. The more restrictive Order must be followed.  Where one Amended Order has a requirement, and the other does not, the requirements that are in place must be followed.

Is there an enforcement hotline for employees to call?
Complaints will only be taken online. A webform to submit complaints is available on the Department's website.

Face Coverings

Where can I find frequently asked questions about masks?
The Department has FAQs specific to the Secretary's Order Requiring Universal Face Coverings, as amended, that can be found here.

Travel

Where can I find frequently asked questions about travel?
The Department has FAQs specific to travel that can be found here. As of March 1, 2021 the Order of the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health for Mitigation Relating To Travel is no longer in effect. Travelers should still take appropriate public health precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19 such as masking, physical distancing, and hand hygiene.