The New York State Public Health and Health Planning Council this week approved emergency regulations implementing the requirement that all health care facility personnel obtain the COVID-19 vaccination. These will be codified at 10 NYCRR § 2.61.

The emergency regulations apply to all facilities defined as hospitals under the New York Public Health Law, which include general hospitals, nursing homes, and diagnostic and treatment centers. They also apply to certified home health agencies, long term home health care programs, AIDS home care programs, licensed home care service agencies, and adult care facilities.

Under the emergency regulations, health care facilities must continuously require personnel (which includes not just employees, but also medical staff members, contract staff, students, and volunteers) to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with the first dose for current personnel received by September 27, 2021 for general hospitals and nursing homes, and October 7, 2021 for all other health care facilities. Documentation of the vaccinations must be made in the facilities’ personnel records.

The regulations do allow for a medical exemption to the vaccination requirement, if a licensed physician or nurse practitioner certifies that the vaccination would be detrimental to an individual’s health, due to a pre-existing health condition. This is a limited exemption that applies only until the vaccination is no longer detrimental to the individual’s health. The support for all granted exemptions must be documented in personnel records.

The regulations also provide that, at the Health Department’s request, facilities must submit and report documentation regarding the number and percentage of vaccinated personnel and the number and percentage of personnel who have been granted medical exemption. Facilities must also implement a policy and procedure to ensure compliance with the vaccination regulations, and submit these documents to the Department upon request.

Finally, the Health Department may require all facility personnel – vaccinated or unvaccinated – to wear an appropriate face covering while working. Facilities have an obligation to provide these coverings at no cost to their personnel. For guidance on how your health care facility can best comply with these new COVID-19 vaccine mandates, contact our health care attorneys.