Dear Clients and Friends:
On December 8, 2020, New Hampshire updated its Universal Guidelines to incorporate the reduced minimum required quarantine period when people are potentially exposed to COVID-19. The Universal Guidelines should be reviewed together with the Quarantine Guidance Update (the “Quarantine Guidance”) and the Employer Travel, Screening and Exclusion Guidance (“Travel Guidance”), both of which were updated December 3, 2020 by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Under these mandated guidelines, the required quarantine period is now reduced from 14 to 10 calendar days in the following instances:
- People who have close contact with another person who is infected with COVID-19; and
- People who have traveled outside of New England for non-essential travel.
In each case, any person who ends quarantine after 10 days must still, for a full 14 days, monitor themselves daily for COVID-19 symptoms and strictly adhere to all recommended non-pharmaceutical interventions, which include social distancing, avoiding social gatherings, using face masks, and practicing frequent hand hygiene. Organizations serving vulnerable populations or congregate living settings are urged to still maintain a 14-day quarantine.
Exceptions to minimum quarantine period. The quarantine changes in New Hampshire follow on the heels of the CDC changing its quarantine guidelines for people potentially exposed to COVID-19, but, unlike the CDC guidelines, the New Hampshire guidelines do not recommend or allow a “test out” option for when an individual has close contact with someone infected with COVID-19, with one exception – if a critical infrastructure business is experiencing significant staff shortages due to COVID-19 and is unable to maintain operations, such businesses can use the test out option to shorten the quarantine period for certain essential employees by following the exception criteria contained in the Travel Guidance. The test out option is also still available for employees who engage in non-essential travel. Further, there are exceptions that allow certain essential employees in critical infrastructure businesses to work during quarantine periods if certain conditions are met. For further information, refer to the Universal Guidelines and the Travel Guidance.
Importance of Contact Tracing. Due to changes by NH DHHS on contact tracing, not every person diagnosed with COVID-19 will be contacted by a public health agency to conduct tracing. Therefore, it is important for employers to work closely with employees who have COVID-19 to conduct accurate contact tracing within the workplace to identify potential exposure to other employees, customers, and others, and quarantine those employees who had close contact with the infected employee. “Close contact” means being within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 for 10 minutes or longer. The 10 minutes of contact can be at one time or cumulative over the course of the day. Close contact does not include brief contact with a person or customer in passing.
We urge you to review the Universal Guidelines, the Quarantine Guidance and the Travel Guidance closely to ensure the appropriate quarantine periods are applied to employees and to determine if the test out option or other exceptions can apply. All New Hampshire employers, businesses, and organizations must follow these mandated guidelines. The State also has issued certain industry-specific guidelines (available here) which must be followed by those industries in addition to the Universal Guidelines.
We know these mandates and guidelines can be confusing. As a reminder, the New Hampshire Department of Justice has established email and phone options for business owners and others to have concerns, questions, and complaints addressed: EO40issues@doj.nh.gov or 603-271-1225. We also are available to help you with any questions or concerns you may have.
We hope this information is helpful as you continue to navigate the pandemic and the various legal requirements, and endeavor to keep your employees, customers, clients, and others safe.
Sincerely, Jen and Andrea
Jennifer Shea Moeckel, Esq. Andrea G. Chatfield, Esq.
Direct: 603.621.7112 Direct: 603. 621.7118