This client alert summarizes the applicable orders and updates for the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Delaware.
On Tuesday, June 15, 2021, Pennsylvania’s emergency declaration formally came to an end as the results of Pennsylvania’s primary election were certified. As part of that election, voters approved measures to limit the Governor’s emergency powers under the state constitution including, but not limited to, curtailing the emergency declaration. Despite the formal end of the declaration, hundreds of emergency regulatory waivers will remain valid through September 30, 2021.
Pennsylvania may be the first state to have amended its constitution in response to the COVID-19 emergency. The amendments seek to make it easier for the legislature to limit the Governor’s emergency powers.
On May 20, 2021, Governor Wolf had extended Pennsylvania’s State of Emergency for the final time. On May 31, 2021, Pennsylvania ended most COVID-19-related restrictions with the exception of mask mandates for unvaccinated individuals.
On June 11, 2021, Philadelphia phased out the last of its “Safer at Home” COVID-19-related restrictions.
On June 4, 2021, Governor Murphy issued an executive order and signed legislation ending New Jersey’s COVID-19 public health emergency. Under the legislation, the majority of the executive orders issued pursuant to the Public Health Emergency will expire this July. While the legislation allows for termination of the Public Health Emergency, the State of Emergency declared in Executive Order No. 103 remains in effect.
The legislation also allows for approximately 14 executive orders to remain in place until January 1, 2022, and can be extended for 90 more days should the legislature pass a concurrent resolution. However, these remaining orders may be modified or rescinded prior to that date should the Governor choose to do so. These orders include the ban on evictions and foreclosures as well as the state’s moratorium on utility shutoffs. Additionally, the state will be permitted to issue orders, directives and waivers that are related to COVID-19 vaccination and testing efforts, implementation of CDC recommendations and other aspects of New Jersey’s recovery from the pandemic.
The expiration of the public health emergency follows New Jersey’s recent decision to end all of its indoor gathering limits, as well as mask mandates and other pandemic restrictions, in accordance with the CDC guidance. However, masking and social distancing remain in place in schools, daycares, summer camps, and on public transit, among other locations, in accordance with the CDC guidelines.
On June 18, 2021, nearly two weeks before its original target date, Governor Murphy announced that the state hit its goal of fully vaccinating 4.7 million individuals who live, work or study in New Jersey.
Similarly, on May 19, 2021, New York adopted the CDC’s “Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People,” which advises that fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks or be socially distanced, for most businesses and public settings. Businesses are authorized, however, to keep current protocols in place and can require social distancing and masks for all individuals. Unvaccinated individuals must continue to wear masks in accordance with CDC guidance.
On June 15, 2021, Governor Cuomo announced that COVID-19 restrictions were lifted after 70% of New Yorkers aged 18 or older received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination series. The state’s health guidelines, including social gathering limits, capacity restrictions, social distancing, health screening and contact tracing, are no longer required for retail, food services, offices, fitness centers and other businesses in the commercial setting. However, businesses can choose to continue with these additional precautions.
Additionally, for large-scale indoor event venues, pre-K through grade 12 schools, public transit, nursing homes and other similar indoor venues, individuals must continue wearing masks.
On June 15, 2021, Governor Carney announced Delaware’s COVID-19 State of Emergency will end on July 13, 2021. Delaware’s emergency order has been in effect since March 12, 2020.
After 15 long months, it appears the COVID-19 pandemic may finally be subsiding in the Mid-Atlantic region. Employers and business owners should take this opportunity to ensure their reopening plans and policies conform to the latest local, state and federal guidance.
The Coronavirus Task Force at Klehr Harrison stands ready to assist you in your business and legal needs. We will continue to provide additional information and guidance as the COVID-19 situation develops.
Author Stephanie Wolbransky is an associate in the litigation department at Klehr Harrison.