COVID-19 NY State of Affairs

Information impacting New York State Please know that all available websites and resources are being updated as quickly as possible. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to add new information.

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The content linked below is available for historical purposes. HR Works is no longer updating this content, and it may not reflect the most recent state of affairs. To find out how HR Works can provide assistance with the most recent affairs, Contact Us to learn more. Current clients may reach out to their HR Consultant or HR Works Virtual Helpline.

Important Updates (Updated 5/4/21)

  • On June 15, Governor Cuomo announced that the state had reach its goal of 70% of New York residents (age 18 and older) having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination. Per the announcement, complying with the industry specific reopening guidelines established by New York Forward became optional for most businesses, except for those in the transportation industry and those running large-scale indoor events. In place of the NY Forward guidance, employers are to comply with the CDC recommendations for fully vaccinated people for most businesses and public settings.
  • On Monday, May 4th 2021, Governor Cuomo, New Jersey Governor Murphy and Connecticut Governor Lamont announced a significant easing of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on the region’s businesses, venues and gatherings given significant progress in vaccinations and sustained reduction in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. 

    Effective May 19, most business capacities—which are currently based upon percentage of maximum occupancy—will be removed in New York and New Jersey. Businesses will only be limited by the space available for patrons or parties of patrons to maintain the required social distance of 6 feet. This new distance-based maximum capacity will apply across commercial settings, including retail, food services, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, hair salons, barber shops and other personal care services, among other settings. It will also apply in houses of worship.

    While most industry capacity restrictions will be lifted, industry-specific requirements will remain in effect for a longer period of time, including state or local health authority event notification, health screening, contact information for tracing, enhanced air handling and building system standards, hand hygiene, and environmental cleaning and disinfection protocols. The State will continue to provide additional guidance on these provisions as they apply to each industry.
  • On October 31, 2020, Governor Cuomo announced changes to the Travel Advisory, effective Wednesday, November 4. The new guidelines allow out-of-state travelers to New York to “test out” of the mandatory 14-day quarantine. Travelers from states that are contiguous with New York will continue to be exempt from the travel advisory; however covered travelers must continue to fill out the Traveler Health Form. Essential workers will continue to be exempt as well.
  • On October 6, 2020, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.68 to addresses recent clusters of COVID-19 in NY by designating red, orange and yellow zones. Red zones, which designate the most severe outbreaks, have the most restrictions in place. Orange zones are less severe and yellow zones are caution, but both still have numerous restrictions in place. The EO also increased the penalties associated with non-essential gatherings and failure to wear a face covering. 
  • The deadline for health insurance special enrollment has been extended to August 15, 2020. New Yorkers without health insurance can apply for coverage through the NY State of Health Health Plan Marketplace.
  • NY/NJ/CT issue a travel advisory for anyone returning from travel to states that have a significant degree of community-wide spread of COVID-19.
  •  Governor Cuomo Announces Phased Plan For Reopening State, Following Announced Guidelines for Opening Up America (4/26/20). Visit HR Works’ Employer Resources Page for Preparing to Reopen Your Workplace.
    • The following regions have now already entered Phase 3: Central New York, the Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley, the North Country and the Southern Tier, Western NY (effective 6/16), Capital Region (effective 6/17). Business guidance for Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan is available here.
  •  Gatherings of up to 25 people will be allowed in Phase 3 of reopening, up from a limit of 10.
  •  The state is extending the special enrollment period for an additional 30 days through July 15, 2020. New Yorkers without health insurance can apply for a health plan through the NY State of Health Marketplace.
  •  On Thursday, April 16, Governor Cuomo announced that NY will continue to adhere to PAUSE through at least May 15. As part of PAUSE, both schools and all non-essential businesses must remain closed.
  •  Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has announced that the IRS has officially moved Tax Day from April 15 to July 15, giving extra time for individuals and businesses to file their taxes.
  •  NY’s presidential primary election will be moved from April 28 to June 23 by order of Governor Cuomo.
  • NY’s voting leave law has been updated (effective immediately) and reverts back to the previous regulations providing up to two paid hours off to vote if an employee does not have “sufficient time” (defined as at least four consecutive hours) to vote before or after work. The updated poster is not yet available. HR Works will continue to monitor and communicate when it becomes available (anticipate it will be before the June primaries).
  •  NY State DOL unemployment insurance benefits under the CARES Act
  • The Department of Labor released a new Public Service Announcement (PSA) to help New Yorkers applying for unemployment benefits. The PSA provides information on how to apply for UI benefits.
  •  Governor Cuomo has signed an Executive Order requiring employers to provide essential workers with cloth or surgical masks, free of charge, to wear when in direct contact with customers or the public. The order goes into effect on April 15th at 8pm.


As of 8 pm on March 22, NY State has been put on PAUSE. This 10 point policy implemented by Governor Cuomo includes mandates such as 100% of the workforce for non-essential businesses is required to stay home; businesses and entities that provide other essential services must implement rules that help facilitate social distancing of at least six feet; and any concentration of individuals outside their home must be limited to workers providing essential services and social distancing should be practiced, among other things. Refer to the Department of Health website for the complete list of requirements under this mandatory policy.

The governor also enacted Matilda’s Law (named for his mother) to protect the most vulnerable population, defined as those age 70 and older or individuals with compromised immune systems. This law requires such individuals to remain indoors; can go outside for solitary exercise; pre-screen all visitors by taking their temperature; wear a mask in the company of others; stay at least 6 feet from others; and not take public transportation unless urgent and absolutely necessary.

NY continues to have the most confirmed cases in the nation. This workforce reduction is a mandate, not a guideline and there will be both civil fines and mandatory closures for companies that are not in compliance.

Essential Businesses

Empire State Development has posted guidance intended to assist businesses in determining whether they are an essential business and steps to request such designation. Please click on this link to view the guidance.

If the function of your business is not listed, but you believe that it is essential or it is an entity providing essential services or functions, you may request designation as an essential business, through the ESDC website.


Empire State Development (ESD) regularly updates its formal guidelines regarding essential businesses. ESD’s complete guidelines can be found on ESD’s website.

Emergency COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave

On March 18, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed emergency legislation guaranteeing job protection and pay for New Yorkers who have been quarantined as a result of COVID-19 (coronavirus). The provisions took effect immediately, upon signing.

New York Emergency Paid Sick Leave and PFL/disability benefits may be available to address the immediate need of employees affected by COVID-19 who are subject to mandatory or precautionary orders of quarantine or isolation. Forms required to apply for Paid Family Leave/disability benefit compensation during a quarantine, are available at Employers and employees can also find answers to Frequently Asked Questions on this site.

New York State Department of Health and New York State Department of Labor Guidance on Use of COVID-19 Sick Leave for Health Care Employers

COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Posters:

More information is available on the governor’s website.