*Information in this Alert is current as of 3 p.m., May 29, 2020; the alert may be updated as New York clarifies reopening details.

In the early morning hours of Friday, May 29, New York State unveiled reopening guidance for industries in “Phase Two” of its COVID-19 reopening plan.

Later in the day, Gov. Cuomo made it official with the announcement during his daily press briefing that several regions, including the Finger Lakes, may now enter Phase Two, allowing an additional set of industries to get back to work.

Industries Covered by Phase Two Guidance

Businesses within a Phase Two industry should take the time to review New York Forward’s guidance for Phase Two industries.

The guidance at this time lists the following businesses or jobs covered by Phase Two, with a specific guidance document for each (linked below):

As with Phase One, each Phase Two guidance document has specifics keyed to its particular industry. At the same time, there are several similarities across the industry-specific guidance documents.

Requirements for All Phase-Two Businesses

The list below summarizes common points in each guidance document:

  • Phased reopening: businesses are encouraged to “phase-in” their reopening rather than bringing all operations back to pre-closure levels all at once.
  • Safety plan: Businesses must create and “conspicuously post” a “Safety Plan.” A template safety plan is available on the New York Forward website.
  • Limited in-person capacity and social distancing: businesses must ensure that their workforce and customer presence does not exceed more than 50 percent of maximum occupancy capacity. Businesses must also post signage reminding all to maintain social distancing.
  • Entrances: businesses should provide clearly designated entrances and exits.
  • Meetings and gatherings in enclosed spaces: If videoconferencing or teleconferencing for meetings is not possible, businesses should hold meetings in open, well-ventilated spaces and ensure individuals maintain six feet of social distance with one another.
  • Face coverings: Businesses may permit customers entry only “if they wear an acceptable face covering.” Face coverings are also required where social distancing is not possible.
  • Mandatory screening questions: Businesses must implement “daily health screening practices” for all employees and for “visitors.” Retail businesses should note that the guidance does not require screening for “customers.” The screening should include, at minimum, these questions: (1) whether the individual has knowingly been in close contact in the past 14 days with anybody who tested positive for COVID-19 or had symptoms of COVID-19; (2) whether the individual has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days; and (3) whether the individual has experienced any symptoms of COVID-19 in the past 14 days.
  • Check-in logs: Businesses should require check-in logs of all employees, and to the extent possible, of visitors who will have close contact with others in the workplace.
    • Retail businesses do not need to maintain a log of “customers.”
    • However, barbershops and salons do need to maintain customer logs. More specifically, barbershops and salons must “strongly encourage customers” to provide name and contact information, but cannot require customers to do so, and cannot deny service to customers who choose to not provide such information.
  • Cleaning logs: Businesses must maintain logs that include the date, time, and scope of cleaning and disinfecting around the workplace.
  • Mandatory reporting of positive cases and contact tracing cooperation: Businesses must notify their local health department and the New York State Department of Health upon being informed of any positive COVID-19 test by an employee. Businesses must also cooperate with health officials to assist in contact tracing of all individuals who interacted at the business and later test positive.

Reopening Lookup Tool, Other Guidance, and Best Practices

Businesses that are unsure as to whether they can reopen should first utilize New York Forward’s “Business Reopening Lookup Tool.” The Lookup Tool factors in a business’ particular industry specification and location, and indicates whether a particular business is eligible for reopening based on State guidance.

Apart from the Phase Two guidance, New York Forward additionally published “Statewide Guidelines” for certain public-gathering services, including guidelines for beaches, religious and funeral services, and racing activities.

As more businesses resume operations, workplaces should be evaluated to ensure they can safely implement new social distancing and cleaning norms. As a safeguard to ensure continued operations, businesses may also consider reviewing and formalizing their remote-work policies. Businesses are also encouraged to review new employee leave entitlements enacted over the last few months, as employees who were not working during a temporary business closure may be eligible for protected leave upon resumption of business operations.

This alert does not purport to be a substitute for advice of counsel on specific matters.

Harris Beach has offices throughout New York State, including Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse and White Plains, as well as New Haven, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey.