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 “essential” businesses that have remained open and those that are scheduled to reopen all or a portion of their operations in the coming weeks.

Some New Hampshire retailers stayed open to provide limited services such as curbside pickup or the fulfillment of online or telephone orders. Although these companies may have had in place COVID-19 related protocols, procedures, and policies before now, Emergency Order #40 makes clear that these companies need to review their current practices and begin compliance with the new Universal Business Guidelines, effective immediately.  The Universal Business Guidelines as discussed here, including some 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.

The orders provide that retail businesses may reopen on May 11, 2020, but must comply with the state-issued industry-specific Guiding Principles.  The Retail Guidance is broken into sections emphasizing Employee Protection, Consumer Protection, and Business Process Adaptations.

The most noteworthy addition is that employees are required to wear cloth face coverings at all times when in the retail facility and in public locations such as shared staff areas (break rooms, and conference rooms) even if other individuals are not immediately present. The following is also mandated:

  1. Staff must be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 before each shift. Staff with any symptoms must not be allowed to work.
  2. Staff should be encouraged to maintain a distance of six feet from customers or other staff.
  3. Interaction should be restricted with outside vendors and delivery drivers with touchless receiving practices implemented, if possible.

There are a number of important guidelines in place for customers, including reducing entrants to 50 percent of legally permitted capacity, requiring use of cloth face masks by all customers and visitors, and reconfiguring entryways, aisles and checkout areas to maintain social distancing to the greatest extent possible.

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”.  Companies may require additional procedures and practices that are consistent with the above and as provided by the Division of Public Health.  Employers should review their policies, practices and procedures and adjust or update them to incorporate these practices and procedures immediately.