COVID-19 Tri-State Updates

New York

August 12, 2020 Update:

New York Travel Advisory Update – Two States & A Territory Added, Four States Removed

This week Governor Cuomo (in conjunction with CT and NJ’s governors) added Hawaii, South Dakota and the U.S. Virgin Islands and removed Alaska, New Mexico, Ohio and Rhode Island from the travel advisory list.  The 14-day voluntary quarantine applies to any person arriving from a state with a 10% or higher positive rate of COVID-19 cases over a 7-day rolling average.

According to the guidance, the travel advisory does not apply to individuals traveling through the designated states for a limited duration of less than 24 hours. The guidance lists examples of “brief passage” to include stopping at rest stops or layovers for air, bus or train travel.

In addition, New York plans to levy a $2,000 fine against certain travelers who leave airports in the state without submitting a form that says where the travelers are arriving from and where they’re going.

As of 8/5/20, New York City has instituted COVID-19 Traveler Registration checkpoints at key entry points, major bridges and tunnels, into New York City and extended it to include Penn Station on 8/6.  The checkpoints are being set up to enforce the New York State travel quarantine orders.  Using these checkpoints, travelers who have visited the 34 designated states or territories named in the advisory will be given information and a NYS Department of Health form to complete regarding the quarantine period.

https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/574-20/mayor-de-blasio-covid-19-checkpoints-enforce-new-york-state-quarantine-orders

Here’s the updated list of states on the current travel advisory:

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and the U.S. Virgin Islands

August 12, 2020 Update:

New York City Schools Re-Opening

According to Mayor de Blasio, each of New York City’s 1,606 public schools will offer “blended learning” which is a hybrid of part-time in-person instruction and remote learning.

Each school’s principal will choose one of two models so that student populations can maintain social distancing rules: one model has the school population divided into two cohorts, and the other option has the population divided into three cohorts.  Schools submitted their preferred model on July 23rd.

Depending on the school’s chosen model, most students will attend in-person instruction in their schools between one to three days a week. The rest of the time, kids will be enrolled in remote education.  The Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza has vowed that New York City students will be learning five days a week, whether it’s in person, or at home and students also have the option to enroll in full-time remote learning.

At any point in the school year, students can switch from the so-called “blended learning” model to full-time remote learning. At each quarter, students can opt into blended learning with in-person instruction.

In the blended model, the Department of Education’s (DOE) health and safety plans call for students to remain in a small group with the same people in the same room, with teachers moving from class to class.

The deadline for families to tell the DOE if they were enrolling exclusively in remote learning was August 7th, though students will be able to switch from blended learning to remote learning at any point in the school year. It has been announced that 26% of the students enrolled in full-time remote learning.

When is the first day of school?

No official first day of school has been announced although the mayor wants some students back in school on September 10th, he has backed down from that date and now states that first day may be announced in September.

What does New York State have to say about schools reopening? Will Governor Andrew Cuomo reverse any NYC decisions?

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on August 7th that based on the state’s low infection rates, he has authorized all school districts in New York state to re-open this fall for in-person education, including New York City.

Cuomo’s benchmark for schools to reopen was that infection rates in the region must be 5% or less on a 14-day average. He has also said the schools will close if the infection rate is 9% or higher on a 7-day average.

The state has overall guidelines but will leave the details up to the school districts themselves. The positivity rate is based on a seven-day rolling average of tests.

Each district’s plan will still need to be approved by the state’s health and education departments, though Cuomo did not give deadlines on those approvals.

July 8, 2020 Update:

Phase 4 Reopening

Governor Cuomo announced this Wednesday, 7/8, that malls are allowed to re-open as part of Phase 4 in applicable regions as long as they have “enhanced HVAC filtration systems and measures in place.”  If malls are located in Phase 4 regions and meet the state requirements they can open as soon as Friday, 7/10.

As of Monday, 7/6, it was announced that the Mid-Hudson Region was entering Phase 4 of the overall state re-opening plan, with Long Island entering it as well on Wednesday, 7/8. At the same time, Governor Cuomo has stated that overall, casinos and movie theaters will remain closed while all state fairs across the state will be cancelled for 2020.

All businesses allowed to operate must develop a written Safety Plan. NY has provided a template. A copy can be found here

June 27, 2020 Update: 

Governor Cuomo signed an executive order on 6/27/20 directly impacting employee paid sick leave benefits while CT and NJ join in the effort as well

With recent COVID-19 flare-ups occurring in certain states the governor signed an order that essentially strips the COVID protections afforded under the current paid sick leave protections (approved on 3/17/20) for NY employees who voluntarily travel to high-risk states after 6/25. In the continuing effort to contain the spread of the virus and just as anyone traveling from the current states of AL, AR, AZ, FL, NC, SC, TX, UT and WA must self-quarantine for 14 days, so now will employees who travel to these same states risk losing their paid sick leave benefits as they pertain to COVID-19.  CA and several other states are expected to be added to this list in the coming days.

This order does not apply to any employee that regularly travels for work, or who is sent to one of these states at the employer’s request.  It expands on a mandate made earlier this year which made NY employees ineligible for paid sick leave if they travel to a country with a level 2 or 3 travel health notice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It should also be noted that this order is part of a joint effort with CT and NJ, and the criteria and protocols will be coordinated among the 3 states in order to ensure that the tri-state area is protected from community transmission of COVID-19, while permitting free travel between and among the states.

Currently, unlike NY, CT and NJ have not addressed the issue of employees losing paid sick leave protections if they do travel to one of the above hot-spot states. Employees of essential employers may have some exceptions, and it is possible that other exceptions may be established by state public health commissioners in the coming days.

New York City: 

July 21, 2020 Update

On Monday, 7/20, New York City entered phase 4 of reopening excluding indoor activities such as dining.  Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio want to proceed cautiously to minimize a new surge in COVID cases as seen in other states and cities.  A final decision on how to proceed with schools is pending.

As a reminder, employers can reference the individual reopening phase guidelines here:

Phase 1

Phase 2 (in office work)

Phase 3

Phase 4

July 15, 2020 Update

New York City moved ahead with Phase 3 of its’ re-opening on 7/6, but it will exclude allowing for indoor dining until a later date amid a current surge in COVID-19 cases. The following businesses remain closed:

  • Large gathering/event venues, including but not limited to establishments that host concerts, conferences, or other in-person performances or presentations in front of an in-person audience;
  • Gyms, fitness centers, and exercise classes, except for remote or streaming services;
  • Video lottery and casino gaming facilities;
  • Movie theaters, except drive-ins; and
  • Places of public amusement, whether indoors or outdoors, including but not limited to, locations with amusement rides, carnivals, amusement parks, water parks, aquariums, zoos, arcades, fairs, children’s play centers, funplexes, theme parks, bowling alleys, family and children’s attractions.

The following link provides summary guidelines for businesses in specific categories (ex. offices, real estate, hair salons, etc.):

https://forward.ny.gov/new-york-city-phase-two-industries

General Information:
State guidelines require individuals to keep a distance of at least 6 feet at all times. If at any time workers or visitors must come within 6 feet of each other, they will have to wear protective masks or acceptable face coverings.  Individuals also must be prepared to don face coverings if someone unexpectedly comes within 6 feet.

Meetings will be limited and office workers will use tele- or videoconferencing whenever possible. Essential in-person meetings should be held in open, well-ventilated spaces with appropriate social distancing among participants, and shared workstations must be cleaned and disinfected between users.

New Jersey

July 2, 2020 Update:

School Year Opening

For those with school-aged children childcare issues, the if, when, and how of the beginning of the new school year in September are considerations to take into account.  Information specific to New Jersey can be found here but keep in mind it is still preliminary and subject to change prior to the start of the actual school year.

Reopening Plan

July 21, 2020 Update:

Currently, New Jersey remains in Stage 2 of the state’s reopening phase and is continuing to eliminate critical in-office work, which is expected to come in Stage 3.

June 18, 2020 Update:

Governor Murphy and Superintendent of the State Police, Col. Patrick Callahan announced on 6/18 that indoor portions of retail shopping malls will be allowed to reopen to the public as of 6/29. Those retail areas will be expected to comply with all requirements concerning social distancing, wearing masks and the like.  Restaurants within the interior of a retail shopping mall will be restricted to offering takeout and delivery services, except that they may also provide in-person service at outdoor areas outside the shopping mall.

With respect to the mall’s own employees, mall operators must require infection control practices, provide employees break time for handwashing, and provide sanitization materials, among other requirements.  If a customer refuses to wear a cloth face covering for non-medical reasons and if such covering cannot be provided to the individual by the mall at the point of entry, then the mall must decline entry to the individual.

The following services or areas shall be closed at all indoor shopping malls:

  1. Valet parking;
  2. Vending machines;
  3. Stroller rentals; and
  4. Any type of communal play area.

Businesses located within the indoor portions of retail shopping malls that remain closed to the public by any Executive Order, such as entertainment and recreational businesses including gyms, fitness centers, movie theaters, amusement parks, water parks, and arcades, shall remain closed.

STAGE 2:

Restrictions are relaxed on activities that can be easily safeguarded.

Phased-in businesses and activities, with adherence to safeguarding and modification guidelines, include:

  • Outdoor dining (beginning on June 15th)
  • Limited in-person retail (beginning on June 15th)
  • Hair salons and barber shops (beginning on June 22nd)
  • Youth summer programs (beginning on July 6th)
  • In-person clinical research/labs
  • Limited fitness/gyms
  • Limited in-person government services (e.g. – Motor Vehicle Commission)
  • Museums/libraries

All workers who can work from home should continue to work from home.

New Jersey will move toward subsequent stages based on data that demonstrates improvements in public health and the capacity to safeguard the public, including:

  • Sustained improvements in public health indicators, including new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, individuals in intensive care, and ventilator use;
  • Substantial increase in testing and contact tracing capacity;
  • Sufficient resilience in New Jersey’s health care system to include adequate bed capacity, ventilators, personal protective equipment, and workforce;
  • Widespread safeguarding of workplaces;
  • Widespread safeguarding and capacity of child care, schools, and mass transit;
  • Continued public compliance.

For more information refer to the New Jersey State website

April 4, 2020 Update:

Paid Sick Leave & Family Leave Insurance Benefits

  • Amended to permit employers to provide sick leave when an employee is unable to work because:
    • There is a state of emergency or threat of health to others by the presence of an employee in the community (paid sick leave).
    • The same circumstance as above but determination relates to an employee’s family member in need of care by the employee (paid sick leave & FLI).
    • The employee is caring for a family member who is in isolation or quarantine because of “suspected exposure to a communicable disease” (paid sick leave & FLI).
    • The employee is isolated or quarantined (paid sick leave).
    • The employee’s workplace or child’s daycare or school is closed because of a state of emergency (paid sick leave).
April 4, 2020 Update:

Family Leave Act

  • FMLA is amended to expand the definition of “serious health condition” during a state of emergency.
  • This will apply to employers with 30+ employees.
  • It prohibits an employer from denying family leave to any employee during an epidemic of a communicable disease or a known suspected exposure to such a disease.
    • This will apply to care for a family member who needs to be quarantined; or because the family member’s place of care is closed due to a state of emergency.
April 4, 2020 Update:

Temporary Disability Insurance

  • The law has been modified to waive the seven-day waiting period for benefits during a state of emergency if the disability is for illness caused by an epidemic of a communicable disease, a known or suspected exposure to the disease, or in an effort to prevent the spread of the disease.
  • Employers with a private disability plan instead of a New Jersey state plan are required to provide these benefits as well.

Connecticut

Per the Connecticut state website Phase 3 of the state’s Reopen Plan will be announced soon and is anticipated to begin in mid-July. Specifics are still being worked out as to what this phase will entail and specifics will be forthcoming.

Gatherings: All social and recreational gatherings are limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. Religious, spiritual, and worship gatherings are limited to 25% of capacity or up to 100 people indoors, and a maximum of 150 people outdoors.

Face Coverings: When in public and a six-foot distance is unavoidable, face coverings are required to be worn. This does not apply to anyone for whom doing so would be contrary to their health because of a medical condition. Answers to any questions associated with masks, social distancing, and other workplace issues are provided here.

Lastly, an excellent resource for definitive answers as to what types of businesses, parks, offices and the like are open or closed at any given point in time, may be found here.

In general, for more information please refer to the Connecticut State website.