Advisory Quarantine has been among the most confusing of the orders to arise from the pandemic. No doubt that it was not intended to be that complicated.
But the last few weeks have had change after change made to the rules. And then came the announcement last week that Rhode Island was on the list and suddenly, all the questions seemed that much more urgent.
Rather than go through all the various permutations, I thought I’d summarize where we are today for Connecticut residents and employers, knowing that the rules are likely to change still further (not to mention the list of states). Thankfully, the state has put up a FAQ that, while not the same as the Executive Order itself, does try to clarify some of the questions.
What States Are On the Quarantine List? The list on August 4, 2020 (which should be updated again on August 11) keeps changing but you can find the 30+ states here. Of the states in the Northeast, Rhode Island, Maryland and Virginia are the ones that stand out.
What’s a Worker to Do? Employees from Connecticut who travel to one of the impacted states must self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival back.
What Happens When A State Is Added To the List When an Employee Is Visiting (and That State Wasn’t On the List Previously)? The state has said that it will not pursue civil penalties or fines on Connecticut residents who travel to a state that gets added to the list while the resident is there. But, “all such travelers are still strongly encouraged to make every effort to self-quarantine” upon return. For employers, this is a conundrum but as a result, many employers are still encouraging such residents to work from home (or self-quarantine) if possible.
How Long Does a Worker Need to Be in Another State to be Subject to the Self-Quarantine? The new guidance says that a Connecticut resident must be in an affected state for more than 24 hours in order to then self-quarantine. Similarly, if an employee lives in Rhode Island and is only going to be in Connecticut less than 24 hours, then the quarantine does not apply. Therefore, Connecticut residents who commute to Rhode Island daily are exempt. And, Rhode Island residents who work in Connecticut on a daily basis are also exempt.
Can Employees Be Tested Instead of Self-Quarantining? The new guidance from the state suggests no. Testing is only available for a person who is “unable to self-quarantine”. According to the state, the term “unable to self-quarantine” applies in “very rare circumstances (e.g., coming to Connecticut for a funeral, an end-of-life visit to a relative).” And for good measure, the guidance says that “Returning to work is not a justification for being unable to self-quarantine. Individuals who plan voluntary travel to affected states should have arrangements with their employers to be self-quarantined for the two weeks after they return.” Moreover, “there is no option to avoid the self-quarantine requirement through getting a COVID-19 test after you arrive in CT.” In other words, the quarantine is fairly strict.
Any Other Guidance for Employers of Rhode Island Residents? Yes. According to the state, Connecticut “employers with employees who are residents of adjacent, affected states should make every effort to provide telework options or otherwise limit employee time in CT.” And what happens if Rhode Island (or another state) comes off the list? Those people who were already self-quarantining must continue that quarantine for the full 14 days upon arrival.
Are Essential Employees Exempt? Yes, but only for work-related travel. “Any CT resident who qualifies as an essential worker…going to the bordering, affected state for work-related travel is not subject to the self-quarantine requirement.”
What If An Employee Voluntarily Goes to an Affected State? Well, this is one of those questions that remains unanswered by the guidance. While Connecticut residents are “urged” not to travel to these states, they still must self-quarantine upon return. Is the employee then eligible for paid sick leave under the FFCRA because of this “quarantine”? On this issue, there seems to be a split of opinion among some, but there’s little doubt that FFCRA-qualifying employees will have an argument to make that they are eligible for paid leave — even if they are the ones volunarily putting themselves in that position. Nonetheless, if employee can work from home upon their return, then they will not be eligible for paid leave.
Finally, don’t miss the “P.S.” buried deep on the page which shows someone at the state still has a sense of humor — “Need great ideas for summer fun within Connecticut? Be sure to check out safe and creative destinations for you and your family.”