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What is a Return to Work Assistant?

As a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many states have implemented shelter-in-place orders, restricting workers from performing some or all of their typical job functions. As states begin to allow businesses to reopen their physical locations, employers face the responsibility of establishing a safe and hygienic work environment. Use the Return to Work Assistant to determine the status of your state's current reopening plans and other helpful information concerning health and safety measures. 
The Return to Work Assistant can help employers and employees know what to consider when making the decision to reopen for business or go back to work after shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to providing detailed information about COVID-19 protective measures in the workplace, the Return to Work Assistant asks a few simple questions to determine which paid leave options you may qualify for, if needed.

When to use a Return to Work Assistant:

  • You are an employer seeking to return employees to the workforce.
  • You want to know about the current status of your state's reopening plans.
  • You would like more information about COVID-19 safety procedures.
  • You or your employees are currently working from home or furloughed.

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According to your answers and guidance released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), your business may not be recommended to reopen yet.


For more information regarding when it will be safe to reopen your business, refer to the following resources below:


State-by-state business reopening guidance


Businesses should refer to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's state-by-state reopening guide to ensure compliance with state reopening guidelines.


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If you are still unsure if reopening complies with state and local orders, ask a lawyer for more information.


• No more than 10 children and adults total in a group.

• Remain open for essential workers.

• Childcare centers can open for all clients. They must:

◦ Screen staff and children for fever and other COVID-19 symptoms prior to entry to the program facility each day

◦ Minimize group sizes to 10 children

◦ Ensure that the spacing of groups allows for 10 feet of separation between groups at all times

◦ Take steps to preclude crowding at pick up and drop off times

◦ Strictly limit the sharing of supplies, food, toys, and other items

◦ Prohibit field trips and other off-site activities, with the exception of activities within walking distance of the facility;

◦ Strictly limit and discourage close person to person contact (hugging, wrestling, games involving touching or tagging);

◦ Require staff to wear cloth masks unless doing so would inhibit the individual's health

• Employers should accommodate workers caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed, or childcare provider is unavailable.

• Licensed Child Care and recorded programs must be approved by the Office of Child Care to operate as Emergency Child Care.

• Facilities are required to limit the number of children in a room.

◦ For Registered Family providers, there are to be no more than 10 children.

◦ Certified Family provides may have two stable groups of up to 10 children in separate areas of the home and no more than 16 children total.

• Daycares, organized youth activities, and camps can reopen.

• Childcare centers can have up to 25 people total in a classroom.

• If more than one group of children is cared for at one facility, each group shall be in a separate group. Groups shall not mix with each other.

• Childcare workers shall remain solely with one group of children.

• Childcare may now be extended to people operating non-essential businesses.

• Daycare and childcare permitted to operate following CDC guidelines.

• Screen (e.g. taking the temperature) every individual upon arrival at the facility.

• For employees, screening should be done prior to every shift. Deny entry to any person who meets any of specified criteria.

• Limit groups of children and class sizes to 10 or less.

• Pick-up and drop-off should be held outside of the facility, unless it is determined that there is a legitimate need for the parent to enter the facility.

• Staff should wear cloth face masks. Under no circumstances should a mask be placed on a child under the age of 2.

• Ensure each child is provided individual meals and snacks. Do not serve family-style meals.

• Childcare is available to the extent necessary to serve the children or dependents of:

◦ Critical infrastructure workers

◦ Workers who conduct minimum basic operations

◦ Workers who perform resumed activities

• 12 or more children shall not be allowed in a room or other enclosed space at the same time.

• Childcare facilities may be open only if they operate in full compliance with Executive Order No. 130 and all guidelines issued by NCDHHS.

• Day camps and programs may operate only if they are in full compliance with the Interim Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Guidance for Day Camp or Program Settings Serving Children and Teens.

• May open with testing requirements.

• Programs must apply with their Regional Licensing Specialists to be approved before serving eligible families.

◦ These programs may only reopen after a thorough cleaning has been conducted.

◦ They must only serve the children of essential personnel.

• Outdoor activities at youth day camps may resume if:

◦ Capacity limitation of no more than 10 individuals in a group.

◦ Daily COVID symptom checks for youth camp staff and campers.

◦ No out-of-state or overnight campers will be permitted.

◦ Physical distancing and masks will be required for all staff and campers.

• Employees of essential and/or reopened businesses who cannot work from home and do not have alternate care options may utilize childcare.

• Childcare facilities must be designated as an Emergency Child Care Site (ECCS) to be operating.

◦ Any licensed childcare facility that was previously closed that wishes to reopen as an ECCS may do so if they can satisfy given requirements.

• Summer camps and small group youth sports practice to resume June 29 with restrictions.

• As of June 29, 2020, licensed child care programs will be allowed to increase their COVID-19 capacity to serve stable groups of 20 children.

• Increase pickup and delivery service options (e.g. online ordering and curbside pick-up).

• Encourage employees to practice physical distancing during pickup and delivery by:

◦ Talking with the customer through a passenger window

◦ Loading items directly into the customers trunk without contact

◦ Leaving items at their door

• Make some locations pick-up or delivery-only.

• Cashless and touchless transactions systems are preferred wherever possible. If available, orders, reservations and payments for the drive-in business should be made in advance online or over the phone.

• Cashless and touchless transactions systems are preferred wherever possible.

• Limit the number of customers to no more than 50% of allowed occupancy

• Standalone retail operations can open if they meet required safety and physical distancing guidelines.

• Guest occupancy must be 30% of maximum building occupancy or lower as determined by the fire code.

◦ This limit does not include employees in the calculation.

• Nonessential retailers can reopen to fulfill telephone and online orders through pickup outside stores and delivery.

• Close fitting rooms at clothing stores, meeting rooms or other enclosed spaces that do not allow for appropriate physical distancing.

• Can reopen with reduced capacity and where strict physical distancing can be maintained.

• No more than 9 people per room for gymnasiums, childcare centers, barber shops, tattoo parlors, and nail salons.

• Retail and personal services can open at 50% capacity.

• All retailers may operate according to COVID-Safe Practices ("CSPs") at 25% fire code occupancy.

• Large retailers like big-box stores and grocery stores may also operate at 25% capacity as determined by fire code.

• May operate up to

• All retail stores, malls and other businesses that sell, rent, maintain and repair goods to open if they have adopted and implemented a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan and allow no more than 50% of the establishment's occupant capacity at any time.

• Smaller locations (less than 10,000 square feet) must maintain 25% or less of the authorized occupancy.

• Larger locations (10,000 square feet or more) must maintain 10% or less of the authorized occupancy.

• Retail stores who sell groceries, medical supplies, and products necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and basic operation of residences or motor vehicles, including convenience stores, pet supply stores, auto supplies and repair stores, hardware and home maintenance stores, and home appliance retailers can reopen.

• Retail stores and malls may move to 75% capacity.

• Indoor mall areas may move to 50% capacity.

• Retail businesses must limit the number of customers to 33% of the maximum permitted occupancy of the facility. Individuals in the store must maintain 6 feet of space between each other.

◦ If individuals are not able to maintain 6 feet of space between each other at 33% of capacity, the retail business must limit the number of individuals in the store to the greatest number that permits proper social distancing.

• Occupancy shall be limited to no more than 50% of the normal occupancy load as determined by the fire marshal.

◦ This "emergency maximum occupancy rate" shall be posted in a conspicuous place, and enough staff shall be posted at the store entrances and exits to enforce this requirement.

• Limit number of patrons to 50% capacity or 8 patrons per 1000 square feet.

• Sanitize entrance and exit doors at least 3 times a day.

• Open registers must be six feet apart.

• Allowed to reopen at 20% occupancy or five (5) customers per 1,000 square feet, whichever is less.

• Businesses allowed to re-open include:

◦ Furniture and home-furnishings stores

◦ Clothing, shoe, and clothing-accessory stores

◦ Jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores

◦ Department stores, except for hardware and home-improvement stores

◦ Sporting goods stores

◦ Book, craft, and music stores

◦ Flea markets

◦ Florists and flower stores

• Limit customer occupancy to no more than 50% of stated fire capacity.

◦ Retail Businesses that do not have a stated fire capacity must limit customer occupancy to 12 customers for every 1000 square feet of the location's total square footage, including the parts of the location that are not accessible to customers.

◦ Limit customer occupancy so that customers can stay 6 feet apart, even if this requires reducing occupancy beneath the 50% limit stated above.

• Retailers must limit occupancy to 50% of the lowest occupancy load on the certificate of occupancy.

• Small businesses with 10 or fewer employees may begin reopening.

• Stores may permit entrance up to 30% of their fire code occupancy.

• Phase One includes delivery, curbside, and in-store pickup service.

◦ Establish designated areas for pick-ups and deliveries.

◦ Only for the following businesses: Clothing Stores, Direct Selling Establishments, Electronics and Appliance Stores, Electronic Shopping and Mail-Order Houses, Furniture and Home Furnishing Stores, Florists, General Merchandise Stores, Health and Personal Care Stores, Jewelry, Luggage, and Leather Goods Stores, Lawn and Garden Equipment and Supplies Stores, Office Supplies, Stationery, and Gift Stores, Used Merchandise Stores, Shoe Stores, Sporting Goods, Hobby, Musical Instrument and Book Stores, Other Miscellaneous Store Retailers.

◦ For further criteria see: "Reopening New York: Curbside and In-Store Pickup Retail Guidelines for Employers and Employees".

• Stores required to mark 6' distances for lines or waiting areas.

• Use every other checkout line.

• Make aisles one-way.

• Install plexiglass shields at checkout and service points.

• Retailers may reopen for in-store pickup and limited browsing.

• No more than one customer per 300 square feet is allowed in the store.

• Open for remote fulfillment or curbside pick-up.

• Non-essential retail operations are limited to 25% of approved fire safety occupancy; or 1 customer per 200 square feet; or 10 total customers and staff combined, whichever is greater.

• Operators must POST their temporary occupancy limit, and which method was used to determine it, prominently on all entrances. Posting templates are available at

• Resumption of in-person shopping at outdoor retail operations, such as garden centers and greenhouses offering mulch, stone, plant, tree, seed sales. Operations shall not allow more than a maximum of 10 total people including customers and staff.

• Staff members must always wear cloth face coverings.

• Retail stores may operate at full capacity with social distancing and sanitization protocols.

• Indoor portions of retail shopping malls may reopen if they follow the following social distancing and safety guidelines:

◦ Businesses must provide face coverings and gloves to all employees, and employees are required to wear face coverings and gloves while on the premises

◦ Limit occupancy to 50% of maximum store capacity

◦ Establish hours of operation specifically for high-risk individuals

◦ Install a physical barrier, such as a shield guard, between customers and cashiers/baggers where possible and anywhere you cannot maintain 6 feet of distance

◦ Require regular hand washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, and proper tissue usage and disposal

◦ Provide employees break time for regular hand washing

◦ Arrange for contactless pay options, pickup, or delivery of goods

◦ Provide hand sanitizer and wipes to staff and customers

◦ Frequently sanitize high-touch areas like restrooms, credit card machines, keypads, counters and shopping carts

◦ Require infection control practices such as regular hand washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, and proper tissue usage

◦ Place signage at entrances and throughout the store alerting staff and customers to the required 6 feet of distance

◦ Mark 6 feet of spacing in check-out lines to demonstrate appropriate social distancing

• Require workers and customers to wear cloth face coverings and require workers to wear gloves. If a customer refuses, they must be denied entry, unless the business is providing medication, medical supplies, or food, in which case another method of pickup should be provided.

• Restaurants may begin limited outdoor dining in addition to pick-up, delivery, and drive-through operations.

• Restaurants can open dine-in under strict social distancing requirements and limited to no more than 50% of available seating capacity

• Tables or available booths must be spaced at least 6 feet apart.

• Bar tops & bar areas within restaurants remain closed (can serve drinks at table).

• Self-service stations (salad bars, beverage stations, etc.) are NOT permitted.

• Vehicles must be spaced at least 6 feet apart. Gatherings outside of vehicles should not take place.

• Limit parties to 10 or fewer.

• On-site consumption of food and drinks must end by midnight.

• Use single use menus and utensils.

• All parties and tables must be 5 guests or less.

• No bar seating is permitted.

• Guest occupancy must be 50% of maximum building capacity or lower as determined by the fire code.

• Outdoor seating is permitted but must also be at 50% capacity. Outdoor seating does not count toward the building occupancy limit.

• Restaurant dining rooms can open once their plans have been submitted for approval by local public health districts.

• Must close and have all patrons out by 11:30PM.

• Tables must be limited to six people per table.

• No more than 5 members of the public picking up food at restaurants.

• Restaurants and bars remain closed except for takeout/delivery.

• Restaurants and dine-in outlets may provide only curbside and delivery service.

• May operate for dine-in service up to 50% of the total listed occupancy (including staff).

• Outdoor dining areas such as patios may resume regular capacity if 6 ft. physical distancing can be maintained.

• Standing in bars is not allowed. Bar stool seating will be allowed for 1-2 guests, with 6 ft. of separation between groups.

• Restaurants and bars can reopen for outdoor service only if they:

◦ Have adopted and implemented a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan

◦ Ensure a minimum of 6 ft. of distance between tables

◦ Limit indoor occupant capacity to no more than 50% up to 250 persons

◦ Limit table service to 4 persons, or 6 if part of one family unit

◦ Require reservations in advance

◦ Require workers to wear masks and strongly encourage masks be worn by customers

• All indoor restaurant service remains closed.

• Restaurants must limit number of customers to of total capacity.

• In-house delivery, third-party delivery, drive-through, curbside pick-up, and carry-out only.

• Screen customers with 5 questions and temperature scans.

• Limit self-service options (communal packaging, food/beverages, etc.). No self-service (buffets).

• May open with limited table seating, 6 feet between tables and subject to additional sanitation rules and guidelines.

• No more than 10 patrons should be allowed in a facility per 500 square feet of public space.

• Occupancy must be limited to no more than 50% of the lowest occupancy load on the certificate of occupancy.

• Restaurants, catering, food service, and bars may allow 50 percent of fire safety occupancy or 1 person per 100 square feet, with a maximum of 75 people indoors and 150 people outdoors.

• Use single-use disposable menus (e.g., paper) and discard after each customer.

• No self-service of food (except beverages), including condiments.

• Only 10 customers may wait for takeout in the lobby area at one time.

• Patrons are not permitted to enter or exit restaurants except to access restrooms, pick up a take-out order, or to access outdoor seating areas.

• Outdoor dining at restaurants will be permitted under strict physical distancing restrictions.

◦ Limit outdoor dining party size at tables to no more than 6.

• Total number of guests within a facility shall at no time exceed 30% of the fire code occupancy.

◦ For restaurants that provide table service: diners must have a reservation in order to sit down in a facility.

◦ For restaurants that do not provide table service: Counter service locations must be spaced 6 feet apart.

• Restaurants can open with outdoor dining only at up to 50% capacity, no bars.

• Eliminate buffet self-serve stations; only permit employees to serve from food counters.

• Offer paper menus and dispose after guests have ordered, or display menu on a wall/white board, and/or encourage customers to view the menu on their phone.

• An establishment's indoor dining capacity is limited to 66% of an establishment's regular eating capacity so long as spacing requirements described below can be maintained.

• Tables must:

◦ Be separated by at least 8 feet;

◦ Be at least 6 feet away from areas with regular customer foot traffic (e.g. routes to bathrooms, entrances, and exits).

◦ Tables may be closer together provided that physical, nonporous barriers (i.e. plexi-glass, plastic) of an appropriate height (tall enough to fully separate seated customers) are installed between tables, in accordance with standards established by RIDOH.

•The maximum party size is 50 people for indoor settings and 100 people for outdoor settings.

• Reservations are required.

• Tables must be spaced at least 10 feet apart.

• Members of only 2 households and 10 total people may be seated at the same table.

• Operators must maintain an easily accessible log of customers and their contact information for 30 days in the event contact tracing is required by the Health Department.

• Operators must limit the total number of customers served/seated at one time to 50 or their maximum licensed seating capacity, whichever is less.

• No more than 50 people should be in one room. This also applies to outdoor seating areas.

• Maximum group party size of eight people.

◦ Each party must be 6 feet apart from other parties.

◦ Full guidelines can be found here.

• Restaurants may continue curbside pickup/delivery, including alcohol pickup/delivery.

• Outdoor dine-in service is encouraged.

• Indoor dine-in service can be held at 50% of the occupancy code limit with a maximum of 50 patrons, if the following requirements can be met:

◦ Patrons in different parties must be a minimum of 6 feet apart. The spacing of tables may need to be 6 feet or more to ensure proper physical distancing between diners from different parties.

◦ All employees must wear face coverings.

◦ Ensure maximum ventilation by opening windows and minimizing air conditioning.

◦ Deep clean and disinfect all shared surfaces between parties.

◦ Keep parties together, and do not allow them to mingle with each other.

◦ Limit party size to 8 people or fewer.

◦ Make efforts to reduce congregating inside and outside the establishment.

◦ Post clear signage notifying patrons and employees of hygiene and sanitation expectations, including not entering if they are experiencing any symptoms.

• Restaurants and bars can open indoor and outdoor seating at 50% capacity and must close to the public no later than 10:00pm.

• Bars may open at 35% capacity or 50 persons.

• Limit the number of customers in the restaurant to 50% of stated fire capacity

◦ For spaces without a stated fire capacity, no more than 12 customers for every 1000 square feet of the location's total square footage, including the parts of the location that are not accessible to customers or guests.

• Bars and restaurants can open for drive-through, delivery, takeout and outdoor dining, but must:

◦ Ensure all areas designated for food and/or beverage consumption conform to applicable local, state, and federal regulations;

◦ Limit capacity to a number that ensure patrons can remain six feet apart from all other patrons, except for those with whom they are sharing a table;

◦ Ensure that tables seating individual groups are six feet apart in all directions and that individual seats in any shared area that is not reserved for individual groups, such as an outdoor bar area, are also six feet apart in all directions;

◦ Prohibit patrons from entering the indoor premises of the food or beverage establishment, except to walk through such premises when entering or exiting the food or beverage establishment in order to access the outdoor area, or to use the restroom;

◦ Individuals are allowed to tour restaurant facilities for event-planning purposes, but must wear face coverings at all times and the facility may not provide food or drink tastings or samplings;

◦ Require patrons to wear a face covering while inside the indoor premises of the food or beverage establishment, unless the patron has a medical reason for not doing so or is a child under two years of age;

◦ Prohibit smoking in any outdoor areas designated for the consumption of food and/or beverages.

• Non-essential construction projects may resume. All construction projects must abide by the social distancing, safety, and sanitization requirements that are described in detail in EO 142.

Federal guidelines for reopening America


For more information regarding federal guidelines for reopening America, refer to President Trump's guidelines for Opening Up America Again, a three-phased approach based on the advice of public health experts.


The White House also has a website that contains all official coronavirus-related government resources for the American public and its businesses.


The CDC has provided guidance for parents who are getting their children prepared for COVID-19.

Emergency leave

Additional Resources


• For more information about how to protect employees from potential exposures, see the guidance provided by OSHA for COVID-19.

• Additional resources relating to COVID-19 can be found on Rocket Lawyer's Coronavirus Legal Center for businesses.


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