All private employers in New York State must activate the airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plans they adopted over the last two months. The action is required under the New York State HERO Act, which became law last spring. All insurance agencies should activate their plans immediately.
The HERO Act required all private employers in the state to adopt prevention plans that equaled or exceeded the standards in model prevention plans provided by the state Department of Labor. The law required employers to adopt plans by August 5. The plans must be designed to prevent exposure to airborne infectious diseases by employees and the public. They also must forbid retaliating against employees who raise concerns.
While the law required employers to adopt plans, it did not require them to activate the plans unless the state Department of Health designated an "infectious viral, bacterial or fungal disease that is transmissible through the air in the form of aerosol particles or droplets" to be "a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health." New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced yesterday that the Health Department has made that designation with regard to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that broke out in China in late 2019.
The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic on March 11, 2020. That declaration remains in effect. While new cases of COVID-19 declined earlier this year following widespread administration of vaccines, the so-called delta variant of the virus has sent new case numbers soaring countrywide, particularly among unvaccinated members of the population. The Health Department's action appears to be a response to the growth in new cases.
If your agency adopted a prevention plan over the summer, you must implement it now. If you have not yet adopted a plan, do so now and put it into effect. Big I New York offers the following resources for members (log in to this website is required):
The Labor Department has a HERO Act resource page that includes links to their model prevention plans. Your agency must adopt and implement either the model or one that equals or exceeds it. The model prevention plan largely reflects the precautionary measures that most businesses implemented in 2020, so much of it may be familiar to you.
We will provide updates to this situation in this space and in our newsletters as they occur.