Cases of COVID-19 are increasing in some states due to each Governor managing the public health crisis in his or her own way. New England states currently have lower positivity rates than many others and Governor Charlie Baker wants to keep it that way in Massachusetts.
Effective August 1st, an updated Executive Order imposes new restrictions on travelers to Massachusetts and with this new restriction, violation of the travel order could mean a fine of $500 for every day of non-compliance. While the Governor admits the state has no plan to enforce the penalties, a violator could potentially owe up to $7000 for failing to self-quarantine for the recommended 14-day period unless he or she is subject to the specified exemptions.
Just as with the previous travel order, individuals coming from low-risk states are exempt. “Low-risk” has been defined by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) as having a positive test rate below five percent. Those states currently include New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Hawaii. Updates will be made to the list as the numbers change.
All non-exempt travelers must complete and submit a Massachusetts Travel Form acknowledging the requirements and certifying how he or she will comply with the instructions detailed in the travel advisory.
These travelers to Massachusetts have two choices; 1) self-quarantine immediately upon arrival for a minimum of 14 days, or 2) provide a negative COVID-19 test prior to 72 hours of arriving in Massachusetts. If a person arrives in Massachusetts without a negative COVID-19 test, he or she must remain in quarantine until providing a negative test result.
The exceptions to the current travel restriction are:
- people traveling through Massachusetts to another destination.
- individuals commuting to work or school.
- patients receiving medical treatment in Massachusetts.
- military personnel traveling on orders.
- people performing work on critical infrastructure services.
Massachusetts residents that travel beyond the identified low risk states will be also be required to quarantine for 14 days upon their return to the state or must provide a negative COVID-19 test. There are a number of free testing sites and Massachusetts has a website to provide locations, test types, and costs of tests administered at each location.
While the Families First Coronavirus Act (FFCRA) is still in effect, the new travel restrictions could mean that an eligible employee will require two weeks of paid leave if available under the Emergency Paid Leave provided within the Act. The FFCRA paid leave covers employees for up to 10 days of their full pay (capped at $511 a day) and employers are entitled to a tax exemption for the full amount they pay each employee.
Employers should work with their employees to do what they can to limit travel to higher risk states and to discuss any upcoming vacations. Employers should set expectations to manage where employees spend their time away from work so that return issues can be minimized.
While testing sites are available all over the Commonwealth, it has been reported that the turnaround to receive results can vary between minutes and weeks. For employees waiting for test results, remote work could be the best option. However, it is preferable to create an advance plan to keep employees safe from potential exposure and on the job.
We will keep you updated on changes to the restrictions and the FFCRA on our blog. In the meantime, for more information please contact Peter Bennett (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Rick Finberg (email@example.com) of The Bennett Law Firm.