July 24, 2020

New York Businesses Reopen With Restrictions

By Ian Chant

While a new surge of COVID-19 cases is cropping up in many states, testing is on the rise and infection rates have remained low and steady New York. One of the early hotbeds of coronavirus infection in the U.S., New York’s implementation of social distancing guidelines and testing for COVID-19 have made significant gains in containing the spread of COVID throughout the state. While we may still be living in the first wave of this global pandemic, with infection rates on the rise in states like Florida and Texas New York is entering Phase 4 of its COVID response. That means some employees have already started returning to offices, malls, and other workplaces.

But to make sure those employees are safe, healthy, and not contributing to the spread of new COVID-19 cases, employers will have to adhere to a bevy of new regulations as they reopen workplaces.

Reopening New York workplaces

While things aren’t exactly back to normal in the Empire State, they’re starting to move that way, as evidenced by new state guidelines around reopening. The governor’s office has announced a new set of recommended best practices alongside mandatory measures that employers will have to take to reopen workplaces from Brooklyn to Buffalo.

Covering factors like physical distancing, hygiene, communications, and screening procedures, New York’s new rules around returning to work will mean significant changes to office life. For instance, offices will be expected to operate at no more than half capacity, to ensure that employees can always maintain six feet of physical separation. Where possible, New York is also asking reopened offices to implement a wider variety of work shifts to keep cubicle populations sparse.

If that sounds like familiar advice, it’s because these guidelines are drawn from CDC guidance on safely returning to work, which we’ve outlined this advice elsewhere on our blog.

New York office reopening guidelines

Some of New York’s other office reopening requirements include:

  • Implementing mandatory health screening practices by instituting temperature checks for employees and having staff answer questionnaires about COVID-19 symptoms, positive COVID-19 test results, and contacts with suspected COVID-19 cases in the past 14 days
  • Reviewing the results of daily screening processes and questionnaires, maintain a record of these reviews, and identify someone to contact in the event that an employee begins experiencing COVID-like symptoms
  • Immediately notifying state and local health authorities if an employee or visitor to the workplace tests positive for COVID-19, and cooperating with contact tracing efforts such as notifying workers, customers, and others who may have been in close contact with the COVID positive individual while abiding by state and federal confidentiality regulations
  • Providing individuals who test positive with information on healthcare resources
  • Providing workers with face masks and training on how to wear them while working inside
  • Adhering to Centers for Disease control guidelines on cleaning and disinfecting workspaces
  • Closing non-essential common areas like gyms and lounges

Phase 4 of New York’s response will see other industries start to open their doors as well. You can learn more about what Phase 4 regulations will mean for your industry at the state’s website.

Where Accolade COVID Response Care fits

Approaches to reopening differ from state-to-state, especially as COVID-19 rates surge in some regions, but one thing is clear for business owners and managers regardless of location: No matter what business your company is in, the last few months have seen the well-being of your employees go from being “a priority” to “the priority.”

Whatever state you’re in, whether your workplace is already reopened or laying the groundwork for it, one thing is abundantly clear: your team will need to have comprehensive COVID screening programs and communications plans in place as employees return to their desks. More than piecemeal solutions, businesses need a comprehensive clinical strategy that puts employee health at the forefront and helps to manage and integrate every step of the COVID disease cycle, from prevention to testing to diagnosis to recovery, without putting an undue burden on employees. That’s where Accolade’s COVID Response Care product can make a real difference by providing not just the solutions for complying with reopening regulations, but the strategy to implement those solutions with as little interruption as possible.

Meeting the requirements of New York and other states that are reopening can seem overwhelming. Most HR departments, no matter how hard-working, lack the bandwidth, resources, and clinical expertise to understand and seamlessly implement the practices they must to safeguard the health of their employees and meet state-mandated guidelines around returning to work. With its staff of health assistants, nurses, pharmacists, and clinicians, Accolade is uniquely equipped to provide this strategy for your business. We know that every company is only as healthy as its employees, and we’re here to help you develop a plan for your pandemic response that keeps your workforce cared for whenever they return to the workplace. Our comprehensive approach keeps up-to-date with the most current clinical evidence, providing a durable strategy that adapts to meet evolving guidelines from the CDC and other health agencies and freeing up time for the rest of your HR team by ensuring they have the best expert advice in front of them at all times.

Interested in learning more about Accolade COVID Response Care? Schedule a demo today.