Today, Governor Cuomo announced that the state has 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, effective today, complying with the industry specific reopening guidelines established by New York Forward will be optional for most businesses. However, employers are encouraged to wait for the updated Executive Order to be published before making changes.
Exempted businesses will no longer need to adhere to New York Forward industry guidance on capacity restrictions, social distancing, cleaning and disinfection, health screening, and contact information for tracing. However, unvaccinated employees (and other unvaccinated individuals in the workplace) will still be required to wear a mask and maintain proper social distance in accordance with the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.
Restrictions and adherence to the state’s existing COVID-19 health protocols will remain in effect for certain industries, including large venues (indoor capacity of greater than 1,500 attendees and/or outdoor capacity of greater than 2,500 attendees), schools (Pre-K to 12), public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, and healthcare facilities until more New Yorkers are vaccinated. Employers in these industries should visit the New York Forward website for required guidelines based on their industry.
This news comes as a welcome relief for many employers and employees who have been looking forward to establishing a sense of normalcy. While the state’s initial 70% goal has been met, Governor Cuomo stated, “it is still imperative that those who have not received the vaccine do so, so that they may enjoy the state’s reimagined reopening to the fullest extent possible.”
Employers will need to determine how they would like to move forward considering these updates. There likely will not be a “one size fits all” solution when it comes to deciding whether to continue implementation of any of the established safety and health guidelines or to lift them entirely. Employers may also find it necessary to take the pulse of their employees to understand the best approach for their workplace. Additionally, it may be necessary to take into consideration how much of the workforce has been vaccinated before deciding to forgo all prior guidelines. Once a decision is made, any changes and updates to the organization’s safety and health protocols should be clearly communicated to employees in writing.
At this time, there is no indication as to what impact the HERO Act will have on COVID-19 workplace safety protocols as the state has not yet published guidance or its’ model prevention plans.
HR Works will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as new information becomes available.