Last week, the NYS Department of Health’s (DOH/the Department) Division of Epidemiology issued a Health Advisory alerting the industry that influenza surveillance is being extended due to elevated flu activity in the state.
Typically, DOH runs influenza surveillance only through the month of May. However, flu incidence remains elevated and widespread, and surveillance will continue until this activity decreases.
The influenza report for the week ending May 14, 2022, shows geographically widespread activity for the 26th consecutive week. The positivity rate was 12% and the percent of patient visits for a flu-like illness is about average at 3%. Thankfully, this season has not seen any pediatric flu deaths.
COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Reminder
New York City employers are reminded that the COVID-19 vaccination requirement remains in effect for workers in the five boroughs. This includes personal assistants in the Consumer Directed Personal Assistant program (CDPAP).
With the lifting of the Key2NYC vaccination requirements for public spaces, there is a misconception that, except for health care workers covered under the NYS COVID-19 vaccine mandate, these vaccines are no longer mandatory.
**ALL workers in NYC must be vaccinated until this rule is rescinded!**
According to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (DOHMH) webpage dedicated to this topic:
Workers in New York City who perform in-person work or interact with the public in the course of business must show proof that they have received a COVID-19 vaccine.
DOHMH issued an updated FAQ document regarding this worker vaccine mandate on May 9, 2022. The eight-page document holds a wealth of information including the definitions of workplace, covered entities, documentation requirements, and more.
Other COVID-19 News
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Health Alert Network Advisory (HAN) to alert providers and the general public about the possibility of rebound COVID-19 following treatment with the antiviral Paxlovid.
According to the CDC, Paxlovid continues to be recommended for early treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in those at high risk of illness progression. The antiviral therapy is proven to prevent hospitalization and death related to SARSCoV-2 infections.
There are reports of rebound COVID-19 occurring 2 to 8 days after recovery of infection both in untreated persons and those treated with Paxlovid. Positive test results and/or symptom reappearance can occur even after a negative test.
The majority of Paxlovid-treated individuals report only mild symptoms with recurrence, and no evidence suggests that further Paxlovid treatment is warranted in those suffering such a “rebound” illness. Studies are ongoing, however, to determine the risks and benefits of longer antiviral courses of therapy.
CDC reminds the public that up-to-date COVID-19 vaccinations prevent hospitalization and death in infected individuals. Immunization is the first and best defense, especially given that Paxlovid is not appropriate therapy for all individuals.
Follow CDC guidance on isolation and quarantine in the case of a positive test result or possible exposure.
DOH Issues DAL on Employee History Checks
On May 24, 2022, the Department of Health (DOH/the Department) issued a Dear Administrator Letter (DAL) pertaining to the verification of employment history.
DHCBS 22-10 reminds employers that they must verify the employment history of potential hires and document such activity. Prior employers are required to provide this information in response to any inquiry regarding a former employee’s work history in their organization. This employment history must be provided directly by the employer without cost to the inquiring business. The Department stressed that referring hiring employers to outside vendors for employment history verification is not permitted, as such practices prevent efficient and effective creation of a stable, trained home care workforce.
Employers who are referred to vendors for employment verification should report this practice immediately to [email protected].
As a follow-up to this DAL, HCP connected with the Department to clarify the employment history verification requirements. While such information is accessible on the Home Care Registry, DOH is not responsible for the accuracy of the employment history on the registry. Therefore, full compliance dictates that the hiring agency must VERIFY the employee’s work history, not simply document what is found on the registry.
NYS Assembly Introduces Home Care Worker Bonus Bill
HCP’s Public Policy team is happy to report that our advocacy has reaped some benefits, as Assemblymember Joyner introduced A10458 yesterday, May 25, 2022.
If passed, this bill serves to rectify the egregious omission of home care workers in the NYS health care bonus appropriation outlined in the FY2023 state budget. According to the state’s budget briefing webinar, home care workers were intentionally excluded from bonus eligibility due to the impending increase in the industry’s minimum wage.
The bill’s justification narrative notes that home care workers are the lowest paid in the health care system, and received NO hazard pay or cost of living raise enjoyed by workers in other sectors. This, the state’s largest health care workforce, is suffering from a worsening shortage of caregivers which is “directly impacting the ability of vulnerable New Yorkers to safely remain in their homes. These workers are crucial to the health and well-being of New York's most vulnerable residents.”
HCP is continuing to push for a Senate companion bill, and will advocate heavily through the end of the legislative session. Watch your inbox for Calls to Action so you can lend your voice when grassroots efforts are warranted.