Phase Two: NY Business Reopening Guidance Highlights

New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo announced during his May 29 press briefing that five Regions have been approved to enter “Phase Two” for business reopening. These are: Finger Lakes, Central New York, Southern Tier, North Country, and Mohawk Valley. This came after data from each region was reviewed by international experts in the area of COVID-19 pandemic preparation and reopening. Guidance for that reopening has now been published by Empire State Development.

The following businesses continue to remain closed: malls, dine-in and on-premise restaurant or bar services, large gathering or event venues, gyms and fitness centers/classes, video lottery and casino gaming facilities, movie theaters (except drive-ins), places of public amusement.

To mitigate confusion about which businesses constitute Phase Two businesses, Empire State Development has created a Business Reopen Lookup Tool. Business owners and consumers may enter the county and industry in which a business operates to determine, in real time, whether that business is Phase Two approved.

As with Phase One, individuals are able to file complaints regarding the improper operation of businesses 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, online or by phone, and employees may make complaints against their employers through an online form with the Department of Labor. Therefore, it is imperative that all employers and public-facing businesses comply in good faith with all guidance to avoid possible penalties or business closures.

Though guidance varies by industry, the common thread across each is that social distancing remains imperative.

Here are the highlights important to you:

  • Guidance has only been issued for those businesses deemed “Phase One” or “Phase Two”
  • Guidance provides “mandatory” actions that all businesses must take, as well as recommendations for “best practices”
  • Safety plans must be completed and maintained onsite (it is not a requirement that they be submitted to the Department of Health). A link to the safety plan template is provided here: Safety Plan Template.
  • Businesses must read and affirm that they have read the detailed guidance. A hyperlink for the affirmation is located at the bottom of each industry’s “detailed guidance” (links below), and allows businesses to submit their business information to Empire State Development.
  • Guidance varies by sector, and subcategories within sectors, so it will be important to locate the guidance most applicable to your business (links to detailed guidance and safety plan templates provided)
  • Social distancing remains imperative, and the “6 feet” rule still applies. If persons are within 6 feet of each other at any time, face masks are required.
  • Non-essential common areas must remain closed.
  • If persons must be within 6 feet of each other, or more than one person must occupy a confined space (including elevators), that space must be limited to 50% of its normal capacity, and persons must wear protective face coverings at all times.
  • In-person gatherings should be limited as much as possible, an employers should opt, instead, for telephonic or video conferencing, when possible.
    • With regard to residential real estate showings, showings are only allowed for unoccupied or vacant properties, must be staggered to avoid congestion of people outside or inside properties, and open houses are only allowed with one party inside the property at a time.
    • With regard to hair salons, walk-in customers who are not able to be immediately served should be given a time to return to avoid crowding.
  • Employers must provide face masks at no-cost to employees, and face coverings must be cleaned or replaced when soiled or damaged, and may not be shared.
    • With regard to hair salons, customers must only be permitted entry into the hair salon or barbershop if they wear acceptable face coverings (provided they are medically able to tolerate same). If face masks are provided to clients, they must be disposable, or must be disinfected between each use.
  • Hand hygiene stations must be made available, and employees must be encouraged to use cleaning/disinfecting supplies before and after use of shared spaces or frequently touched surfaces or objects (e.g., shared tools).
  • Signage must be posted throughout work sites to remind personnel to adhere to proper hygiene, social distancing roles, and cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
  • Shared work stations must be cleaned and disinfected between users.
  • Shared food and beverages are prohibited (buffet-style meals), and sample stations should be closed.
  • Training and communication are key: employees must be trained on safety protocols and informed of updates.
  • Logs must be maintained, noting every person, including workers and visitors, who may have close contact with other individuals at work site, excluding deliveries performed through contactless means or with appropriate PPE.
  • If a worker tests positive for COVID-19, employers must immediately notify state and local health departments, and cooperate with contact tracing efforts.
  • Employees who are sick should stay home, and employees who present with symptoms should be sent home.
  • Employers must implement mandatory health screening assessments (e.g., questionnaires, temperature checks) before employees begin work each day for (1) COVID-19 symptoms in the past 14 days; (2) positive COVID-19 tests in the past 14 days and/or (3) close contact with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases within the past 14 days. Responses must be reviewed each day, and such review must be documented.
  • Employees who test positive for COVID-19 must undertake a 14 day quarantine.
  • On-site screeners should be trained by employer-identified individuals familiar with CDC, DOH and OSHA protocols, and wear appropriate PPE, including at a minimum a face mask.

If you have questions about how to bring your business into compliance with New York’s new guidance, or would like to discuss the reopening of your business in further detail, please contact our Labor & Employment Law practice group.