As we reported earlier this week, the first phase of New York State’s re-opening plan commences tomorrow for the Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, North Country, and Southern Tier regions as they have met specified health and safety metrics. As the regions have met these metrics, reopening will be permitted to begin with Phase 1, which includes certain agriculture, retail, manufacturing, and wholesale.
To assist businesses with the details of reopening, the state has created a New York Forward website to provide guidelines and guidance. New York Forward can be found here. As detailed on the website, Empire State Development (ESD) has set forth specific health and safety guidelines (and obligations) for industries and businesses that will be reopening. Broadly, they relate to social distancing, hygiene, protective equipment, screening, and contact tracing.
In addition, ESD has provided a template for businesses to use to create a tailored business re-opening safety plan. Please note that every business in New York will be required to have a business re-opening safety plan. This plan does not have to be submitted to the state, but it must be on hand and ready for review if asked for by the New York State Department of Health or local county health officials. The template is also available on the New York Forward website.
Critically, this new guidance makes clear that those businesses that have been deemed essential businesses, and have continued their operations, must also meet these new requirements. The FAQ document released in conjunction with the guidance addresses this specifically in questions 4, 5 and 6. The link is here if you would like to review the questions and answers.
The business reopening guidance that has been issued so far is industry specific to businesses reopening in Phase 1, so for an essential business, your particular business may not fit neatly into the broad industry categories currently listed. However, the vast majority of guidance is not necessarily industry specific, and focuses on social distancing, hygiene and cleaning procedures, protective equipment, screening, and contact tracing.
As it is clear from the FAQs that the state intends to hold essential businesses to this guidance, it is important than any business operating as an essential business review the guidance and take the necessary steps to be in compliance with the guidance and develop a re-opening safety plan. For non-essential businesses, it is important that you review this guidance and prepare to implement it as your region and industry phased re-opening happens.
If there are questions on the guidance, they should be directed to the regional control groups. The regional control groups are comprised of top regional elected, academic, and healthcare officials who will monitor progress and a have circuit breaker ready in case the numbers start to go back up. Information on each regional control group can be found here.
Based on past experience, it is likely that the state will provide additional guidance on a going forward basis to modify and tweak this guidance. We will continue to monitor the situation
If you have additional questions or want to discuss the re-opening plan, please reach out to a member of our Government Affairs practice group for assistance: