The New York State Department of Health Commissioner has extended the designation of COVID-19 as a “highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health in New York State” until October 31, 2021. As a practical matter, this means that New York employers must keep their HERO Act workplace exposure prevention plans activated until at least October 31, 2021.
As we previously reported, the Commissioner first made this designation on September 6, 2021, triggering the HERO Act’s myriad requirements—which we reported on here and here—requiring nearly all private New York employers to activate their HERO Act workplace exposure prevention plans.
The extension of this designation means that employers must continue to implement their worksite exposure prevention plans, as well as the various safety measures under the HERO Act and as set forth in the New York State Department of Labor’s model templates. These include, among other disease prevention measures: (1) daily health screenings of employees; (2) “stay at home” policies for positive or symptomatic employees; (3) physical distancing where feasible; (4) the use of face coverings where physical distancing is not observed in workplaces where all individuals are not fully-vaccinated; and (5) disinfectant and cleaning practices. We would encourage employers to review our earlier post describing these requirements in greater detail, including the “verbal review” of the employer’s policies and employee rights that is required under the law.
At bottom, New York employers that have already activated their respective worksite exposure prevention plans and implemented the various disease prevention measures required should continue to do so through October 31, 2021, at which point the Commissioner will determine whether to continue this designation. We will monitor any information released by the Commissioner and update this guidance with any changes.
As always, Mintz’s Employment, Labor & Benefits team is available to assist employers with any HERO Act questions or concerns.