Four days after announcing construction could resume in Pennsylvania following the release of COVID-19 safety guidelines for project sites, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) issued those guidelines April 24 and said crews could return to work on May 1, one week earlier than previously announced.

Wolf shut down all non-life sustaining business in the state March 21, including all but essential construction projects, in an effort to stem cases of COVID-19. 

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Developed with input from the General Contractors Association of Pennsylvania, the guidelines require workers to cover their faces and social distance. Hand washing and sanitizing stations must be installed and protocols must be established if workers at the site have been exposed to a person who is a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19. Cleaning and sanitizing protocols for high-risk transmission areas must also be established and contractors must identify a “pandemic safety officer” on each job site.

“My administration has taken measured, aggressive steps to protect public health and safety, including strictly limiting the types of businesses and projects that may continue to operate during this unprecedented time,” Wolf said in a statement. “Thankfully, these actions are working, and we are flattening the curve." 

As of 4:30 p.m. on April 24, the state reported 1,385 new cases, up from the 948 new cases reported on April 20 when the governor first announced construction could restart, but significantly down from the state's peak of nearly 2,000 new cases on April 9. To date, Pennsylvania has reported a total of 37,069 cases and 1,421 deaths. 

Robert Cottone, president and CEO of IMC Construction Inc., says his firm "is delighted to get back to work. Although painful, we feel the shutdown saved lives." 

The Malvern, Pa. contractor ranked 18th on the ENR MidAtlantic's most recent Top Contractor list, performing more than $400 million worth of work in Pennsylvania during 2018. Currently working on 10 projects in Pennsylvania, Cottone says his firm is "in intensive planning and communication with our staff and vendors to create understanding of our new construction site virus prevention protocols," Cottone said. "We all share responsibility to work and live in a manner that retards the spread of the virus." 

The guidelines also restrict the number of workers working in "enclosed portions" of non-residential or commercial projects, "depending on the size of the enclosed site," according to a statement released by Wolf's office. 

Local governments may also impose more strict requirements than those issued by Wolf's office. “We recognize that the construction industry is vital to Pennsylvania’s economy,” Wolf said, “and may operate safely with stringent guidance in place that will protect employees and the public.”