People in European nations, like those in the United States, are facing added restrictions heading into the Christmas holidays as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. The World Health Organization has urged Europeans to wear masks during family gatherings this year. From Austria to Wales, there are restrictions on how many households can gather together, not to mention limits on business operations and tourist travel.
For anyone who lives here or is visiting Kansas, travel restrictions include mandatory quarantine for anyone who has gone to mass gathering events out-of-state of 500 people or greater where individuals do not socially distance (6 feet) and wear masks, and for anyone who has been on a cruise ship or river cruise.
Others need to quarantine if they have received notification from state or local public health officials that they are close contacts of a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19.
Local residents aren’t happy about imposed restrictions such as quarantines or mask mandates, but state and local government, or for that matter your boss, can impose some restrictions during a pandemic.
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, employers DO have latitude to know how workers are spending their off hours and can protect the workplace from COVID-19. “It varies by state, but if it is a matter of protecting the safety of the workplace, employers can also discipline workers for what they do during off hours. That could include if workers don’t disclose potential exposure to the virus and return to the workplace without quarantining after personal travel or after attending large celebrations.”
Jennifer Merrigan Fay, an employment-law partner in Boston at Goodwin Procter LLP, agrees that companies can’t be unreasonably restrictive, but they can take unusual steps aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 during this health crisis.
For example, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner has advised that, generally, measuring a worker’s body temperature is a medical examination. But because of recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and other health authorities, businesses may measure workers’ body temperature or ask workers if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
If you’re feeling all of this is unfair and that we’ve been Scrooged this holiday season, just remember this isn’t forever. President-elect Joe Biden has a plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic during his first 100 days in office and has asked Americans to commit to wearing masks. “Just 100 days to mask — not forever, just 100 days. And I think we’ll see a significant reduction,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Anyone who says, “Bah, humbug!” is the real Scrooge in this tale.