HERO Act Now in Effect

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that HERO Act mandates are now in effect, as the Commissioner of Health has designated COVID-19 as a highly contagious airborne infectious disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public. The directive is a result of the continuing threat of the delta variant of the virus.

All employers must immediately implement their HERO Act workplace safety plan as required by New York State law. This plan is intended to help protect workers from SARSCoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

As previously covered by HCP, the HERO Act required all NYS employers to formalize their prevention plan and communicate that plan to employees by August 5, 2021. Today’s announcement means those plan provisions must now be put into action. As a reminder, the plan must be posted in all worksites except vehicles.

Hero Act Summary

As required by the HERO Act, the New York State Department of Labor (DOL) in consultation with the New York State Department of Health (DOH) developed and made available an Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Standard, a Model Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plan, and various industry-specific model plans for the prevention of airborne infectious disease. See the dedicated DOL website for additional information, HERO Act standards, and plan templates.

Minimum controls are now required to be in place and include health screenings and quarantine requirements, face covering and distancing guidance, as well as hand hygiene, PPE, and disinfection basics.

When these minimum controls are deemed insufficient for employee protection, employers themselves determine if additional, advanced measures are necessary. Such additional precautions include steps such as business closures, ventilation and partition enhancements, and additional personal protective equipment. “Administrative Controls” are also outlined and may include employee training, additional hygiene breaks, work pods, etc.

HCP members are reminded that the HERO Act definition of “worksite” subject to safety protocols includes vehicles, but not patient homes, as the worksite definition explicitly limits coverage to locations “over which an employer has the ability to control”. Additionally,  telecommuting locations are specifically excluded from the HERO Act unless the employer has the ability to exercise control over the premises.

Recall that the HERO Act also prohibits employer retaliation against employees for lodging complaints, filing reports, or refusing to work due to a safety issue.

Employers may direct feedback and inquiries via email to DOL at [email protected]

Still NO DOH Guidance for Providers on Vaccine Mandate

HCP and its members continue to eagerly await guidance from DOH regarding implementation of the recently enacted emergency rule requiring all health care workers to be vaccinated for COVID-19. As HCP reported last week, the Dear Administrator Letter (DAL) is currently under review at the highest level of state government and is expected in the coming days.

The DAL will provide guidance to providers regarding how to comply with the vaccine mandate. In recent conversations, HCP urged DOH to clarify the several questions that have been posed and provide regulatory relief and safe harbor enforcement discretion in order to lessen the disruption to the home care industry.

This DAL could be issued as soon as today. HCP will alert members to the release of the vaccine mandate and provide a link to it as soon as it becomes available.

HCP urges members to be sure their contact information is always up to date in the New York State Health Commerce System (HCS). HCS provides critical information as released by DOH, and notification depends on HCS having providers’ most current information.