New York continues to move forward rapidly into a post-COVID world. First, on June 11, 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation to amend the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (“HERO Act”) to clarify certain obligations and deadlines for employers to comply with this new law. Second, on June 15, 2021, New York lifted the COVID-19 restrictions and New York Forward industry guidance after hitting the benchmark of 70 percent (70%) of all New York residents age 18 or older having received at least one (1) dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
As we recently reported, effective June 4, 2021, New York enacted the HERO Act to protect employees against airborne disease. On June 11, 2021, Governor Cuomo signed certain amendments into law and the HERO Act now provides as follows:
- By July 5, 2021, the New York Department of Labor (“NYDOL”) shall publish general and industry specific model disease prevention protocols.
- Within thirty (30) days thereafter, employers must either adopt such protocols or establish an alternative plan that equals or exceeds the minimum standards provided by the model protocols.
- Within thirty (30) days of the adoption date and thereafter within fifteen (15) days after reopening from a closure due to airborne infectious disease, employers must provide the plan to employees.
- Effective November 1, 2021, employers with at least ten (10) employees must begin permitting the creation of one (1) workplace safety committee per worksite.
In addition, effective June 15, 2021, in response to the State’s achievement of reaching the seventy percent (70%) vaccination rate of adults described above, New York lifted most of its remaining COVID-19 restrictions. Accordingly, effective immediately, the following restrictions are now optional across commercial settings, including, but not limited to, retail, food services, offices, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, personal care services: social gathering limits, capacity restrictions, social distancing (see the caveat below), cleaning and disinfection, health screening, and gathering contact information for tracing. Individuals who are not “fully vaccinated” must continue to wear masks in accordance with guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”). The June 15, 2021 announcement is not clear as to whether unvaccinated individuals must also continue to socially distance, especially given the State’s recent adoption of CDC guidance on this issue.
Some COVID-19 restrictions remain, including, but not limited to, the State’s health guidelines related to large-scale indoor event venues, pre-K to grade 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and health care settings per CDC guidelines.