Yesterday, Governor Cuomo announced that at least 70% of New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the vaccine and, thus, in accordance with a prior promise, the Governor announced the complete lifting of COVID-related restrictions, including capacity restrictions, social distancing, cleaning and disinfection, health screening, and contact information for tracing for “retail, food services, offices, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, hair salons, barber shops, personal care services and other commercial settings.” Businesses in these industries can continue to adhere to safety precautions, but they are not required to.
“Health Care Settings” were specifically excluded from the lifting of restrictions. Therefore, these settings must still adhere to the State’s existing COVID-19 protocols. It is not clear if a home care or fiscal intermediary office, where no patient care, no patient visits or intake, or any patient-facing duties are performed, is considered a “health care setting.” Arguably, it is not. Indeed, during the initial months of the COVID-19 restrictions, when the definitions of “essential business” were being disputed, various State government agencies (e.g., Attorney General, Department of Labor) took the position that a home care or fiscal intermediary office was not an essential business. Thus, there is some basis to argue that a home care office is a general office and may implement the full lifting of COVID restrictions. Counsel, however, should be consulted before any provider decides to do that.
Notably, for offices that do lift all restrictions related to COVID, unvaccinated individuals will still be required to wear masks. To ascertain vaccination status, businesses may request proof of vaccination, or may rely on self-reporting (i.e., the honor system).