Governor Cuomo Outlines Additional Guidelines for Phased Plan to Re-open New York 

During today’s daily briefing, Governor Cuomo outlined additional guidelines for the phased plan to re-open New York on a regional basis. Each region of the state - Capital Region, Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mid-Hudson Valley, Mohawk Valley, New York City, North Country, Long Island, Southern Tier and Western New York - must follow these guidelines as part of the re-opening plan. 
1. CDC Guidelines: Based on CDC recommendations, once a region experiences a 14-day decline in the hospitalization rate they may begin a phased re-opening. 
2. Industries: Businesses in each region will re-open in phases. Phase one will include opening construction and manufacturing functions with low risk. Phase two will open certain industries based on priority and risk level. Businesses considered "more essential" with inherent low risks of infection in the workplace and to customers will be prioritized, followed by other businesses considered "less essential" or those that present a higher risk of infection spread. Regions must not open attractions or businesses that would draw a large number of visitors from outside the local area. 
3. Business Precautions: Each business and industry must have a plan to protect employees and consumers, make the physical work space safer and implement processes that lower risk of infection in the business. 
4. Building Health Care Capacity: To maintain the phased re-opening plan, each region must have at least 30 percent of hospital beds and ICU beds available after elective surgeries resume. 
5. Testing Regimen: Regions must implement a testing regimen that prioritizes symptomatic persons and individuals who came into contact with a known COVID-positive person, and conducts frequent tests of frontline and essential workers. Regions must maintain an appropriate number of testing sites to accommodate its population and must fully advertise where and how people can get tested. The region must also use the collected data to track and trace the spread of the virus. 
6. Tracing System: There must be at least 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 people. The region must also monitor the regional infection rate throughout the re-opening plan. 
7. Isolation Facilities: Regions must present plans to have rooms available for people who test positive for COVID-19 and who cannot self-isolate. 
8. Regional Coordination: Regions must coordinate the re-opening of schools, transportation systems, testing and tracing with other surrounding regions. 
9. Re-imagining Tele-Medicine 
10. Re-imagining Tele-Education 
11. Regional Control Rooms: Each region must appoint an oversight institution as its control room to monitor regional indicators during the phased re-opening, including hospital capacity, rate of infection, PPE burn rate and businesses. 
12. Protect and Respect Essential Workers: Regions must continue to ensure protections are in place for essential workers. 

Governor Cuomo also announced the creation of the New York Forward Re-Opening Advisory Board to help guide the state's re-opening strategy. The advisory board will be chaired by Former Secretaries to the Governor Steve Cohen and Bill Mulrow and includes over 100 business, community and civic leaders from industries across the state. A list of the members of the advisory board is available here

DOH Issues Updated Interim Guidance on the Protocol for COVID-19 Testing

The Department of Health (DOH/the Department) continues to monitor the situation and work to expand COVID-19 diagnostic and serologic testing for New Yorkers. 
Appropriate and efficient standards for testing are an essential component of a multi-layered strategy to prevent sustained spread of COVID-19 in New York State and to ensure resources are being efficiently and equitably distributed. New York State continues to increase testing capacity for COVID-19 on a daily basis. However, until such time as we are at full capacity, this guidance is necessary to ensure that New York State prioritizes resources to meet the most urgent public health need. 
Diagnostic and/or serologic testing for COVID-19 shall be authorized by a health care provider when: 

An individual is symptomatic or has a history of symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g. fever, cough, and/or trouble breathing), particularly if the individual is 70 years of age or older, the individual has a compromised immune system, or the individual has an underlying health condition; or 
An individual has had close (i.e. within six feet) or proximate contact with a person known to be positive with COVID-19; or 
An individual is subject to a precautionary or mandatory quarantine; or 
An individual is employed as a health care worker, first responder, or other essential worker who directly interacts with the public while working; or 
An individual presents with a case where the facts and circumstances – as determined by the treating clinician in consultation with state or local department of health officials – warrant testing. 

To support the statewide coordinated testing prioritization, health care providers should take the following prioritization into consideration when ordering a COVID-19 test: 

1. Symptomatic individuals, particularly if the individual is part of a high-risk population, including persons who are hospitalized; persons residing in nursing homes, long-term care facilities, or other congregate care settings; persons who have a compromised immune system; persons who have an underlying health condition; and persons who are 70 years of age or older. 
2. Individuals who have had close (i.e. within six feet) or proximate contact with a person known to be positive with COVID-19. 
3. Individuals who are employed as health care workers, first responders, or in any position within a nursing home, long-term care facility, or other congregate care setting, including but not limited to: 

• Correction/Parole/Probation Officers 
• Direct Care Providers 
• Firefighters 
• Health Care Practitioners, Professionals, Aides, and Support Staff (e.g. Physicians, Nurses, Public Health Personnel) 
• Medical Specialists 
• Nutritionists and Dietitians 
• Occupational/Physical/Recreational/Speech Therapists 
• Paramedics/Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) 
• Police Officers 
• Psychologists/Psychiatrists 
• Residential Care Program Managers 

Diagnostic Testing Access: 

Individuals who fit these prioritization categories and do not currently have access to testing can call the New York State COVID-19 Hotline at 1-888-364-3065 or visit the NYSDOH website to be screened for eligibility, and if eligible, have an appointment set up at one of the State’s Testing Sites. 

U.S. EEOC Updates Guidance Regarding Workplace Testing

Last week, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) updated its COVID-19 guidance twice to address reopening of the workplace and testing employees for COVID-19.

According to the new guidance, which applies to employers throughout the United States, employers may require the testing of employees for the COVID-19 virus before they enter the workplace. Employers may also check employee temperatures, ask questions about whether an employee is experiencing symptoms of the pandemic virus, and require employees to self-report COVID-19 infection or related symptoms.

Testing of employees should be conducted consistently to ensure that an employer does not treat employees differently based on protected characteristics.
The EEOC further confirmed that employers may mandate that all employees wear protective equipment, such as masks and gloves, while in the workplace. 

Employers must continue to consider exceptions due to disability or religious concerns. Further, employers need to provide reasonable accommodations if doing so is feasible and does not pose an undue hardship on its business operations. In recognition of the challenges currently faced by employers, the EEOC noted that the undue hardship standard may be an easier burden to satisfy during the pandemic, because of the pressure on many employers’ financial resources.

Finally, the new guidance reminds employers that they should “still require . . . that employees observe infection control practices (such as social distancing, regular handwashing, and other measures) in the workplace to prevent transmission of COVID-19.”

Employers are reminded that they are required to maintain confidentiality of information related to an employee’s temperature check and/or testing results. Additionally, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) requires that all medical information about a particular employee be stored separately from an employee’s personnel file, to limit access to this confidential information.

OSHA Issues Interim Guidance on Decontamination of Respirators

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) released  interim guidance on decontamination of respirators in healthcare.  This is the latest in a series of enforcement memos OSHA issued to address workplace exposure to coronavirus. Home health and hospice providers should review this information along with the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Decontamination and Reuse of Filtering Facepiece Respirators information. 

REMINDER: DOH Weekly COVID-19 Update

Please join the Department of Health Thursday, April 30th at 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM for a COVID-19 update for healthcare providers.

To accommodate the large number of participants, our webinar will be streaming via YouTube Live:

For audio only, please dial in: 844-512-2950

New Employee Leave Laws Update Webinar

Webinar | Thursday, April 30, 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm

Employers continue to struggle with the employee leave and absence rules and regulations that, seemingly, appear to change and evolve week by week. Join us Thursday, April 30, for a new update on State and Federal Leave laws, both COVID and non-COVID related that apply to your agency. We will discuss some commonly asked questions and suggestions on how to best address specific home care leave scenarios. This webinar will be presented by leading home care industry attorney, Emina Poricanin.

This is a free webinar. Please register to receive log in information.

Click here to register for the free webinar.