May 29, 2020 COVID-19 Guidance

Governor Cuomo Announces Plan to Reopen New York


The New York Forward website now includes “Interim COVID-19 Guidance” for the following businesses allowed to reopen in the five regions which have reached Phase 2 of the New York State reopening plan:  Office-Based WorkReal Estate ServicesEssential and Phase II Retail Business ActivitiesVehicle Sales, Leases, and RentalsRetail Rental, Repair, and Cleaning ActivitiesCommercial Building Management; and Hair Salons and Barbershops. As in Phase 1, employers must affirm that they have read and understand their obligation to operate in accordance with the guidelines. The website also includes summaries of the above documents. In addition, businesses opening in Phase 2 must post their written safety plans in the workplace.

May 21, 2020

The New York Forward website now includes guidelines for the following industries in Phase I of the New York Forward reopening plan : Construction, Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting; Retail Limited to curbside or in-store pickup or drop off); Manufacturing; Wholesale Trade.

May 14, 2020

The New York Forward website has added a Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) section. The website now also includes the following documents for the construction industry: Interim Guidance for Construction Activities during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (“Interim COVID-19 Guidance for Construction”), a Safety Plan template, and a summary of the construction guidelines. Employers must read the Interim COVID-19 Guidance for Construction and click on a link to affirm that they have read and understand their obligation to operate in accordance with this guidance. Employers may use the template to create the required Safety Plan or design their own version, but the Safety Plan must be in writing. The Safety Plan does not need to be submitted to a State agency, but it must be posted in the workplace and made available to the New York State Department of Health (DOH) or local health or safety authorities in the event of an inspection.

May 13, 2020

On May 11, 2020, Governor Cuomo announced New York Forward, a phased-in approach to reopening businesses in New York State. Under this plan, non-essential businesses will be allowed to reopen on a regional and industry-specific basis. Each region must meet seven metrics in order to begin the first phase, which for some regions will begin on May 15, 2020, when the state-wide shut-down, New York Pause, ends. A New York Forward website includes a New York Forward Book which describes the plan in detail.

Ten Regions

Under New York Forward, the State has been divided into the following ten geographical regions:

  1. New York City
  2. Long Island (Nassau, Suffolk)
  3. Mid-Hudson (Westchester, Dutchess, Ulster, Sullivan, Putnam, Orange, and Rockland)
  4. Capitol Region (Albany, Columbia, Greene, Saratoga, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Warren, and Washington)
  5. Mohawk Valley (Fulton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida, Otsego, Schoharie)
  6. Finger Lakes (Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming, Yates)
  7. Central New York (Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga, Oswego)
  8. Southern Tier (Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Delaware, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins)
  9. Western New York (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Niagara)
  10. North Country (Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence)

A map of the ten regions can be found here.

Each of the ten regions has its own Regional Council, referred to as “Control Rooms,” which will evaluate the progress their respective region has made on meeting the seven metrics to determine when that region can begin Phase I of reopening.  These metrics, described more fully below, will be used to determine whether (i) the infection rate in a region is sufficiently low; (ii) the health care system has the capacity to absorb a potential resurgence in new cases, and (iii) diagnostic testing and contract tracing capacity is sufficient to detect and isolate new cases.

New York City’s Regional Council is headed by New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado and includes Mayor de Blasio; Kathy Wylde, President and CEO of Partnership for New York City; Vinny Alvarez, NYC Central Labor Council President; City Council Speaker Corey Johnson; and the Borough President for each of the five boroughs. The members of each Regional Council can be found here.

Four Phases Grouped by Industry

Businesses within each region will be opened in four phases, with at least two weeks in between each phase. Different industries and business types have been assigned to each of the four phases based upon an assessment of the industries’ economic impact and the risk of infection each poses. 

The industries within each phase are:

Phase I

Phase II

Phase III

Phase IV

  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Retail – (Delivery and Curbside Pickup Only)
  • Wholesale Trade
  • Agriculture
  • Forestry,
  • Fishing and Hunting
  • Professional Services
  • Retail
  • Administrative Support
  • Real Estate / Rental & Leasing
  • Restaurants / Food Services
  • Arts / Entertainment / Recreation
  • Education

Seven Metrics

In order to begin Phase I of the reopening plan, the Regional Councils will determine whether each region has satisfied each of the following seven metrics:

  1. Decline in Total Hospitalizations. A region must have a sustained decline in total net hospitalizations – the total number of people in the hospital each day, calculated on a three-day rolling average – over the course of a 14-day period. Alternatively, regions that have seen few COVID cases overall will satisfy this metric if the daily net increase in total hospitalizations, measured on a three-day rolling average, has never exceeded 15.
  2. Decline in Deaths. A region must have a sustained decline in the three-day rolling average of daily hospital deaths over the course of a 14-day period. Alternatively, regions that have seen few COVID-19 cases overall will satisfy this metric if new hospital deaths, measured on a three-day rolling average, has never exceeded five.
  3. Decline in New Hospitalizations. A region must have fewer than two new hospitalizations per 100,000 residents measured on a three-day rolling average.
  4. Sufficient Hospital Bed Capacity. A region must have at least 30 percent of their total hospital beds available before Phase I of the reopening can begin.
  5. Sufficient ICU Bed Capacity. A region must have at least 30 percent of their ICU beds available before Phase I of the reopening can begin. In addition, every hospital must have at least 90 days of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) stockpiled.
  6. Sufficient Diagnostic Testing Capacity. A region must be able to achieve 30 tests per 1,000 people per month.
  7. Sufficient Contact Tracing Capacity. A region must have contact tracing programs in place to interview positive patients, identify their close contacts, interview and alert those contacts to the risk of infection, and instruct those close contacts to quarantine or isolate for 14 days. The New York State Department of Health (DOH) has established region-specific thresholds for the number of contact tracers required, based on the characteristics within each region.

In addition to determining when each region can begin Phase I, the Regional Councils will also monitor each metric during each phase of a region’s reopening. The Regional Councils will alert the state if the region’s metrics no longer meet the reopening guidelines so that the reopening plans for the remaining phases can be adjusted accordingly. This means that if a region continues to meet all seven criteria during the two weeks following Phase I, industries in Phase II can reopen; if a region does not continue to meet the seven metrics, businesses in Phase II will not be able to reopen until the metrics are met and sustained for two weeks.

A dashboard showing the status of the metrics for each region can be found here. As of May 12, 2020, four regions- the Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley, the Southern Tier, and the North Country – have met all seven metrics and can therefore begin Phase I of the reopening plan on May 15, 2020.  

The Central New York region met six of the seven metrics as of May 12, 2020. 

As of May 12, 2020, New York City had met only three of the metrics (numbers 1, 2, and 6) and is expected to meet the contract tracing metric (# 7) by May 15, but has not yet shown a sufficient decline in new hospitalizations (#3), or sufficient hospital bed or ICU bed capacity (#4 and #5).

Business Safety Plans

Prior to opening, each business must develop a plan to address the safety of employees and customers. The plan must focus on the following three areas:

  1. Protections for employees and customers. This includes possible adjustments to workplace hours to reduce density in the workplace, enacting social distancing protocols, and restricting non-essential travel for employees.
  2. Changes to the physical workspace. This includes requiring all employees and customers to wear masks if in frequent close contact with others and implementing strict cleaning and sanitation standards.
  3. Implementing processes to meet changing public health obligations. This includes issues such as screening individuals when they enter the workplace.

It is expected that additional information and a Frequently Asked Questions section will be added to the New York Forward website. We will report on new developments as information is provided.

Next Steps

Employers should begin formulating business safety plans. Employers can estimate when they will be able to reopen by determining which phase their particular business fits within and monitoring the dashboard to learn whether their region has met all seven metrics to begin Phase I. KM&M will provide guidance to employers on formulating their safety plans in additional articles.

Please reach out to any of our attorneys if you have any questions about New York Forward or need assistance in formulating a reopening plan.