New COVID guidelines for businesses

By Mary Jo Coulehan
Pagosa Springs Area
Chamber of Commerce

The state of Colorado and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) have issued some new guidelines for businesses in regards to the new sick time regulations allowed to an employee for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021. 

The other guidelines are for businesses that may have had an employee exposed to COVID-19. The full reports are listed at www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employee-paid-leave and www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-questions.

It is important that businesses know what these new expectations are and plan for them if possible — both financially and physically.

Healthy Families and Workplaces Act

The Healthy Families and Workplaces Act replaces the HELP rules which just expired. A quick synopsis of the new guidelines: This is a multi-part act. Some of the guidelines go into effect immediately and others not until 2021 and 2022. 

This new rule applies to all businesses regardless of size until Dec. 31. In 2021, it applies to businesses with more than 15 employees and then in 2022 applies to all employers regardless of size. If employers already provide comparable paid sick leave and allow their employees to use their sick leave as permitted under this act, they are not required to provide additional sick leave. Up until Dec. 31, an employer must pay up to 80 hours of paid sick time if the employee can demonstrate need in one of the following categories: has COVID systems and is seeking a medical diagnosis; is being ordered by a government agency or is being advised by a health provider to quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19 symptoms; or is taking care of an individual ordered to quarantine or isolate or has a child whose school or place of child care has been ordered closed by a public health official. 

In 2021, the required number of paid sick time hours is reduced to 48 paid sick leave hours. This equates to one hour paid for every 30 hours worked up to 48 hours. Employees may use the sick leave for new reasons including mental or physical injury or health condition, sexual assault or domestic violence, or a public health emergency where the business or place of child care has been ordered closed by a public health official. 

Employees become eligible on the first day of work and if an employee is released and reinstated within six months, the earned credits must also be reinstated. Employers can pay the sick time in a lump sum, and associated records need to be retained for at least two years. Employers may request documentation when an employee is out for four or more days; i.e., doctor’s or counselor’s note. Employers will be required to keep records of the sick time allocated either through their payroll system or other timekeeping method. 

We are working on providing a webinar in September to address these upcoming payroll changes and will inform the public when that webinar will be available. 

Possible business
exposure to COVID-19

With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases rising in our community from both resident and nonresident exposure, San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) is very busy conducting contact tracing. This term reflects trying to identify people and places that may have been affected by someone having been diagnosed with COVID-19 systems. 

Does this mean if my business has been exposed that it is automatically shut down? Not necessarily. SJBPH has a series of guidelines that employees and businesses should follow should exposure be traced to that business. These guidelines do include testing, isolating or being quarantined. These guidelines also extend to employees who may have had a family member exposed or diagnosed with the virus. 

It is critical that businesses continue to be vigilant in checking the health of their employees so that a reduction of staff or possible shut down is avoided. It is not difficult to be assigned as an “outbreak” center as an outbreak is considered only two incidents at the same location. 

Business should continue to be vigilant in their sanitation protocols and records. Our businesses have been affected severely enough already. Don’t risk your establishment losing even more business due to lack of sanitation and regulation protocols. 

The Chamber of Commerce still has masks available at no charge for businesses that would like to give some out to people entering their business who do not have a facial covering. The Visitor Center also has complimentary bandannas that are available. Stop by the Visitor Center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day to get your bandannas or the Chamber from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day to get your masks. 

We are also still looking for individuals that would like to sew masks to contact us. The mask packets have the directions, the material already cut out and bias tape to sew onto the masks to make the ties. Any help would be appreciated. 

The Chamber also has posters from the Town of Pagosa Springs indicating that masks are required to enter your establishment and the town resolution supporting this requirement. The Chamber can drop a poster off at your business, or you can stop by and pick yours up at the Chamber or town administrative offices. 

Be safe, Pagosa, and let’s keep these positive COVID-19 virus numbers at a minimum. 

This story was posted on July 25, 2020.