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Coronavirus Shutdown Orders Largely Allow Construction Work to Proceed

Posted: 03/25/2020
Industries: Construction

This update tracks Coronavirus shutdowns as of March 25, 2020, 12:00 p.m. EDT that affect construction projects in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania – jurisdictions in which Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP offices are located.

Jurisdictions Requiring Work Stoppage:

Massachusetts: As of March 17, 2020, the City of Boston shut down all construction in the city for two weeks. A few other Massachusetts localities (such as Cambridge and Martha’s Vineyard towns of West Tisbury and Chilmark) adopted similar restrictions.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania stopped all residential and commercial construction except for healthcare facilities and emergency repairs. The order halted on-site work for all “non-life-sustaining businesses” in Pennsylvania. Construction projects other than those for healthcare facilities and emergency repairs were deemed to be “non-life-sustaining businesses” and thus are shut down.

Jurisdictions Allowing Projects to Proceed:

Delaware: The State of Delaware directed the shutdown of “Non-Essential Businesses” but is allowing “Essential Businesses” to remain open. The order classifies “construction” as an “Essential Business” if it fits in any of the following categories or employs or utilizes the following types or workers:

  1. Workers who are engaged in the construction of residential or non-residential structures or infrastructure, or any workers who provide critical maintenance to residential or non-residential structures.
  2. Businesses that supply materials and hardware to those engaged in the construction of residential or non-residential structures.
  3. Workers involved in activities related to the design and apportionment of residential and non-residential structures.

The District of Columbia: On March 24, 2020, the District of Columbia issued an order directing the closure of “Non-Essential Business” but allowing “Essential Businesses” to remain open. Among the “Essential Business” are: “Construction and Building Trades, including plumbers; pipefitters; steamfitters; electricians; boilermakers; exterminators; roofers; carpenters; bricklayers; welders; elevator mechanics; businesses that sell supplies and materials for maintenance of commercial and residential buildings and homes, including 'big box' supply stores, plumbing distributors, electrical distributors, and HVAC distributors; and other businesses that provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and operation of residences and Essential Businesses[.]

Florida: The state has not issued a broad business shutdown order that would affect construction projects.

Illinois: By an executive order dated March 20, 2020, the Governor ordered the closure of “all businesses and operations in the state except “Essential Businesses and Operations.” The Order’s definition of “Essential Businesses” that are allowed to remain open includes “Essential Infrastructure.” The order permits individuals to “leave their residence to provide any services or perform any work necessary to offer, provision, operate, maintain and repair Essential Infrastructure.” “Essential Infrastructure” includes “construction (including, but not limited to, construction required in response to this public health emergency, hospital construction, construction of long term care facilities, public works construction, and housing construction)” and “building management and maintenance[.]”

Maryland: The State of Maryland’s general business shutdown order excludes “commercial and non-residential construction companies,” which may continue operations.

Minnesota: The state has not issued a business shutdown that would otherwise affect construction.

New Jersey: New Jersey’s shutdown order allows “a business or non-profit that has employees that cannot perform their functions via telework or work-from-home arrangements” to remain open. Among the employees whom the order specifies need to be at their work sites in order to perform their jobs are “construction workers.” The order directed businesses to “make best efforts to reduce staff on-site to the minimal number necessary to ensure that essential operations can continue.”

New York: New York’s shutdown order deemed construction an “essential business” that may remain open. The order notes that construction includes “skilled trades such as electricians, plumbers” and “other related construction firms and professional for essential infrastructure or for emergency repair and safety purposes[.]”

Further updates will be provided as these unprecedented circumstances unfold. Please visit our Coronavirus Resource Page at https://www.saul.com/coronavirus-covid-19-resource-page or contact attorneys in Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr’s Construction Practice for further information.