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Resources for Retail Garden Centers Operating During COVID-19 Outbreak
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PLNA Update on COVID-19 for PA Retail Garden Centers

Updated Wednesday, May 13, 2020 at 3:30 pm

PLNA continues to fight on behalf of all retail garden center/greenhouse operations. 

When your County moves to the Yellow Zone:

Once it is announced that your county is moving to the Yellow Zone and you choose to open full operations, you MUST follow the Secretary of Health's order issued on April 15, 2020 on Public Health Safety Measures for Businesses. The order establishes protocols to help employees maintain a social distance during work, establishes protocols for execution upon discovery that the business has been exposed to a person who is a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19;; and establishes protocols to maintain safe social distancing among customers. NOTE, THIS IS NOT BUSINESS AS USUAL.

Have a copy of your site-specific plan for implementing social distancing in accordance with the PA Department of Health workplace guidance and federal CDC guidelines available for review by your employees and should any enforcement officers visit your business. 

Please refer to the Secretary of Health's order and make sure you have all the protocols in place prior to opening your doors to customers.

Click here to download the Secretary of Health's order

Click here for the Business and Building Safety orders

Best Management Practices for When You Open

If you choose to open full operations, please follow these BMP’s along with any other procedures you have put in place in accordance with the Department of Health and CDC guidelines:

• Provide masks for employees to wear during their time at the business, and make it a mandatory requirement while at the work site. Employers may approve masks obtained or made by employees in accordance with this guidance

• Implement daily all-hands communications within company to inform, educate and reinforce SOPs, BMPs and possible next steps

• Relax attendance policies to allow any employee who is uncomfortable working to stay home and use PTO or apply for UC

• Train personnel to be able to respond to questions from the public about safety/social distancing in a professional manner

• Ensure that all employees who do not speak English as their first language are aware of procedures by communicating the procedures, either orally or in writing, in their native or preferred language

• Ensure that the facility has a sufficient number of employees to perform all measures listed effectively and in a manner that ensures the safety of the public and employees

• Ensure that the facility has a sufficient number of personnel to control access, maintain order, and enforce social distancing of at least 6 feet

• Require all customers to wear masks while on premises, and deny entry to individuals not wearing masks

• Conduct business with the public by appointment only and, to the extent that this is not feasible, limit occupancy to no greater than 50 percent of the number stated on their certificate of occupancy as necessary to reduce crowding in the business and at check-out and counter lines in order to maintain a social distance of 6 feet

• Place signage throughout each site to mandate social distancing for both customers and employees

• Alter hours of business so that the business has sufficient time to clean or to restock or both

• Install shields or other barriers at registers and check-out areas to physically separate cashiers and customers or take other measures to ensure social distancing of customers from check-out personnel, or close lines to maintain a social distance between of 6 feet between lines

• Encourage use of online ordering by providing delivery or outside pick-up

• Designate a specific time for high-risk and elderly persons to use the business at least once every week if there is a continuing in-person customer-facing component

• In businesses with multiple check-out lines, only use every other register, or fewer. After every hour, rotate customers and employees to the previously closed registers. Clean the previously open registers and the surrounding area, including credit card machines, following each rotation

• Schedule handwashing breaks for employees at least every hour; and

• Where carts and handbaskets are available, assign an employee to wipe down carts and handbaskets before they become available to a new customer. 

PLNA's Petition to Ask Governor Wolf to Reopen Garden Centers

On April 20, 2020, PLNA sent over 16,000 signatures to Governor Wolf from Pennsylvanians asking him to open independent family-owned garden centers. In addition, PLNA included over 1,200 comments from the signers expressing their interest in opening garden centers so they can start planting their gardens. The petition on had been up for a week and is still taking signatures and comments.

Click here to download the letter.

We are on the radar of  Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Cutler Click here to see video of him talking about garden centers  on the House floor on April 7, 2020 at minute 10:45.

If you are now closed and wish to reopen, you must do these things NOW

·     Call the Governor’s office at this number: (717) 787-2500. Tell your story and ask them to pass it along to the Governor.

·     Call your state representative and senator. To find the number of your state representative and senator, click here.

·     Call these people every day until we get a positive answer. Be polite but persistent.

·     To help you with these calls, below is a list of talking points, but relate them to your business.

Talking points for garden centers:

  • Introduce yourself and the name and location of your garden center.
  • Tell them you support the goal of the Governor’s directive to minimize the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in our communities.
  • You pledge to implement the CDC’s recommendations for social distancing and hygiene if permitted to reopen.
  • Family-owned independent garden centers are being singled out for closure.
  • Big box stores like Lowes, Home Depot and Walmart can operate their garden departments, unfairly competing with the family-owned independent garden centers.
  • Family-owned independent garden centers earn 60%-75% of our annual revenue during the spring season.
  • Surrounding states like Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland have allowed their garden centers to remain open.
  • Family-owned independent garden centers are a resource for the home-grown food supply, with vegetable plants, seeds and other materials need by the home gardener.
  • Gardening and home landscaping have been scientifically proven to reduce stress, improve mental health, reduce depression, and lower blood pressure, so needed during this time.
  • Greenhouses, nurseries and floriculture producers are permitted to operate, but without garden centers have no place to ship their plants.

Ask Your Customers to Call Their Legislators

If you have an email list of customers, you should consider sending an email to them outlining why you are closed and asking for their help so you can reopen. Ask them to call their local state representative and senator and the Governor’s office. They should ask for approval of PLNA’s request for a blanket exemption for independent family-owned garden centers. 

Review PLNA's addition guidance on COVID19 Closures

PLNA wants you to make all your business decisions based on what is best for your employee's, customer's and supplier's health. We continue to review the orders and provide additional clarification.  Click here to see our latest guidance for our members.

Governor Wolf Denies PLNA Exemption Request for Garden Centers

On March 23, 2020, PLNA submitted a request to the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) and the Department of Agriculture to allow all garden centers to be reopened under the Governor’s COVID-19 shutdown order, providing we follow CDC recommendations for social distancing and hygiene. You may download a copy of that request by  clicking here.

On April 10, 2020, PLNA received an email denying our request.  Click here for the denial and further clarification restricting the activities of garden centers not having an individual exemption.


  Stay safe and stay healthy!!

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