Department of Health issues FAQs about employee and customer safety order for funeral homes and cemeteries

by | Apr 21, 2020 | Articles, COVID-19, Death Care, Insights

The below information is current as of the publication date listed. Because COVID-19 response measures on all fronts are continually evolving, clients should stay alert to new developments and consult with counsel on any critical questions.

The Pennsylvania Secretary of Health has issued answers to frequently asked questions about the April 15, 2020 order requiring employee and customer safety measures – including masks – at businesses continuing in-person operations.

These FAQs provide important updates, including some specific to death care operations:

  • Funeral homes should continue to adhere to the 10-person limit on services, as provided in State Registrar Notice 2020-09, even if they could accommodate more people under the 50% occupancy limit found in the April 15 order.
  • Employees who work outdoors, such as cemetery workers and landscapers, must wear masks.
  • Employees must wear masks even if they can maintain social distancing while working.
  • Employees are exempt from wearing a mask if it impedes their vision, if they have a medical condition, or if it would create an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task. Further, employees isolated in their personal office space, when unshared with any other colleagues, do not need to wear a mask, but must do so when they leave their office.
  • Employees and customers must use masks that meet the Department of Health’s guidance. This may include homemade masks, masks owned by employees, and scarves, bandanas, or disposable face shields in lieu of a mask.  
  • The Department of Health has created a Business-2-Business directory to help find masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Temperatures screening is required only after a business has been exposed to a person who is a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19. However, the Department of Health recommends that routine temperature screening be conducted, particularly in areas with high positive COVID-19 case numbers.
  • Required temperature screening must continue for at least 14 days after the exposure, but the Department of Health recommends temperature checks be conducted as a matter of routine.
  • A “probable” case of COVID-19 occurs if a person has appropriate symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, shortness of breath) and exposure to a high-risk situation, or if the person has a positive antibody test and either symptoms or high-risk exposure.
  • If a business is exposed to a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19, the business must implement temperature screening for all employees, not just those who interacted with a sick coworker or customer.
  • Non-employees, such as truck drivers, contractors, or delivery persons, are not subject to the temperature screening requirement.
  • Temperature screening must be done by the employer. It cannot be done through employee self-screening (e.g., employees are told to take their temperature at home or self-report their temperature).
  • Temperature screening is not required to be administered by a medical professional, and the Department of Health has not issued specific guidance on thermometers.
  • After exposure to a person who is a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19, a business should wait 24 hours, or as long as practical, before beginning required cleaning and disinfecting.
  • Guidance on what cleaning is required is available from the Centers for Disease Control and in the Secretary of Health’s April 6 order on building safety measures.
  • The Department of Health will establish an online form for employees to report violations of the April 15 order.
  • The Governor will not be reimbursing employers or employees for the costs of complying with the April 15 order.  

Saxton & Stump attorney Jason Benion is available to assist death care professionals with these and other questions as you navigate the various legal implications of the orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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