On May 1, 2020, Governor Sununu issued Emergency Order #40 to facilitate and guide the reopening of the State in phases. Referred to as Stay At Home 2.0, Emergency Order #40 sets forth mandatory requirements for those businesses that were considered to be “essential” and that therefore have remained open, as well as for those that are scheduled to reopen all or a portion of their operations in the coming weeks.
Many healthcare providers were deemed providers of Essential Services and have remained open since the Governor’s first emergency order was issued on March 13, 2020. These providers have implemented COVID-19 related protocols, procedures, and policies for their employees since that date. Emergency Order #40 makes clear that these companies that were deemed Essential Services must review their current practices and determine whether they comply with the new Universal Business Guidelines, effective immediately. Companies other than Essential Services that are now reopening will need to comply with the Universal Business Guidelines at the time of reopening. Information concerning the Universal Business Guidelines may be found here, including guidance on the screening of employees reporting for work. The Universal Business guidelines are based on recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Healthcare providers currently operating or reopening must also comply with the state-issued industry-specific Guiding Principles for Responsibly Resuming Health Care Services. This specific guidance comes as the State emphasizes that New Hampshire must remain prepared for periodic and unpredictable “hot spots” or outbreaks of the COVID-19 virus occurring throughout the state and region for several months. The guidance provides seven guiding principles for healthcare providers in the State regarding the following topics:
- Timing for Resuming Services;
- COVID-19 Screening and Testing;
- Personal Protective Equipment;
- Determining Services to be Resumed;
- COVID-related Safety and Risk Mitigation;
- Patient Messaging and Communication; and
The guidance also emphasizes that these guiding principles can only be operational only if adequate Personal Protective Equipment and sufficient testing supplies and capacity exist for hospitals and health systems.
Additionally, employers should make sure to follow all wage and hour laws and regulations, and other employment laws relating to the workplace.
As noted in the Governor’s press release, this “universal guidance will serve as the bare minimum standards which businesses must meet to maintain or begin operations” and the healthcare industry will require that “specific operational procedures” be put into place based on industry-specific guidance as various sectors of the State get back to work. Companies may require additional procedures and practices that are consistent with the above and the Division of Public Health. Employers should review their policies, practices and procedures and make any adjustments or updates as needed to address these procedures and guidelines.