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On June 15, 2021, Governor Cuomo announced that 70% of adults in New York State received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, triggering an update in reopening requirements for offices and certain commercial workplaces. Because of this change, many New York employers will be able to reduce onerous COVID-19-related protocols previously required by the State of New York.  However, all New York employers must still comply with the CDC’s guidance requiring that unvaccinated individuals wear masks and be socially distanced.
Since May 2020, New York workplaces have been subject to industry-specific “New York Forward” reopening requirements, which included capacity restrictions, social distancing, cleaning and disinfection, health screenings, contact tracing and other virus-related restrictions. Having reached its target vaccination rate, New York lifted the previously issued New York Forward reopening requirements for retail, food services, offices, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, hair salons, barber shops and personal care services and other specified commercial settings. While these minimum standards are no longer required, employers are still permitted to continue adhering to New York Forward reopening guidelines or any other health precautions, provided such requirements comply with applicable federal, state and local disability and religious discrimination laws.
Governor Cuomo’s announced change to reopening guidelines did not affect every industry. Consistent with federal CDC guidance, New York health guidelines continue to be in effect for large-scale indoor event venues, pre-K to grade 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes and health care settings.
Despite the lifting of New York Forward reopening requirements, masks and social distancing are still required for unvaccinated individuals, in accordance with federal CDC guidance. Effective May 19, 2021, New York adopted the CDC’s guidance requiring that unvaccinated individuals continue to wear masks and be socially distanced in most settings.  In order to differentiate, businesses may require proof of full vaccination status through paper form, digital application, the State’s Excelsior Pass or self-reporting (e.g., honor system). New York has made clear that its rule adopting CDC guidance for unvaccinated individuals remains in effect despite the lifting of New York Forward requirements.
New York employers should expect more guidance, particularly because the New York Commissioner of Labor will be publishing industry-specific airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plans in the coming weeks. New York’s Health and Essential Rights (“HERO”) Act (described HERE in a prior e-Alert published last month) requires the issuance of model plans by July 5, 2021, which employers must adopt within thirty (30) days of publication.  
We are keeping a close watch on the New York reopening requirements and the issuance of the Commissioner of Labor’s model plans. For questions regarding these new guidelines, please contact a member of NFC’s Counseling Team.  


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