Several regions of New York state moved to Phase 4 of the state’s reopening plan today, Friday June 26. Phase 4 is currently designated as the final phase of the state’s reopening plan, though some industries remain unclear as to when they will be permitted to reopen.

Other regions currently remain in Phase 3 but will look to enter Phase 4 in the coming week—with the exception of New York City, which is currently in Phase 2. An updated map of which regions are in which phase is available on the state’s “New York Forward” website.

As of June 26th, Phase 4 industries include:

  • Higher Education
  • Low-Risk Outdoor Arts & Entertainment
  • Low-Risk Indoor Arts & Entertainment
  • Media Production.

Businesses in industries that were reopened in earlier Phases should recheck guidelines applicable to them, as several guidance pages have been updated since their initial rollout. For example, reopening guidelines applicable to construction entities, a Phase 1 industry, have been updated as of June 15; similarly, guidelines applicable to office-based work, a Phase 2 industry, have been updated as of June 16.

Gyms and Malls Not Reopening in Phase Four

Gym facilities and shopping malls were expected to be included in Phase 4 reopening. Over the past week, however, state officials informed industry leaders that gyms and malls would not be included in Phase 4. It remains to be seen when these venues will be given the green light to resume operations, and, whether their reopening will rolled into Phase 4 at a later date.

Since New York’s reopening plan went into effect, several industries and venues have been given clearance to reopen outside of the “Phased” reopening. These industries, and the reopening guidance applicable to them, are posted on New York Forward’s “Statewide Guidelines” page. Gyms and malls may ultimately be included into the Statewide Guidelines. Industries currently under the Statewide Guidelines include:

  • Child Care and Day Camps
  • Lake and Ocean Beaches
  • Religious and Funeral Services
  • Racing Activities
  • Dentistry
  • Auto Racing
  • Professional Sports Training Facilities
  • Public Transportation
  • Sports and Recreation

Phase Four Guidance

As with reopening from Phases One through Three, each industry reopening in Phase Four has detailed guidelines applicable to it. All industries are required to follow new-normal procedures for social distancing, disinfection, and face coverings.

Brief specifics for each industry are detailed below.

Higher Education Guidelines

  • Higher education institutions include colleges, universities, “and other higher education institutions.”
  • Whereas all other industries must develop “Safety Plans,” higher education institutions must develop “Institution Plans” that cover campus reopening, monitoring health conditions, containment of virus transmission, and contingency plans for campus shutdown.
  • Private institutions must submit their plans to the Department of Health for approval, while SUNY institutions must submit their plans to the Chancellor’s office.

Low-Risk Outdoor Arts & Entertainment Guidelines

  • Low-risk outdoor venues may operate at no more than 33% of their maximum occupancy, including visitors.
  • Low-risk outdoor venues include “outdoor zoos, botanical gardens, and other related low-risk outdoor arts and entertainment businesses.”
  • Certain venues are specifically listed as not qualifying as “low-risk” outdoor spaces, such as amusement parks, water parks, and concerts.
  • Venues must establish and conspicuously post a Safety Plan.
  • Employees (and if practicable, contractors and vendors) must be screened for symptoms daily. Patrons do not need to be screened under the guidelines.

Low-Risk Indoor Arts & Entertainment Guidelines

  • Low-risk indoor venues may operate at no more than 25% of their maximum occupancy, including visitors.
  • Low-risk indoor venues include “indoor museums, historical sites, aquariums,” and similar “other related low-risk” venues.
  • Like the Outdoor guidance, certain venues are specifically listed as not qualifying as “low-risk” indoor spaces. These venues include arcades, bowling alleys, casinos, movie theaters, performing arts and theatrical productions.
  • Venues must establish and conspicuously post a Safety Plan.
  • Employees (and if practicable, contractors and vendors) must be screened for symptoms daily. Patrons do not need to be screened under the guidance.

Media Production Guidelines

  • “Media production” covers activities undertaken “in motion picture, music, television, and streaming productions on set, on location, or at any production or recording site.”
  • For indoor production, occupancy is limited to 50% of the area’s certificate of occupancy.
  • Safety Plans must be established and conspicuously posted.
  • Live audiences are permissible, but may only consist of paid employees, cast, and crew. Total audience capacity cannot exceed over 100 individuals, or 25% of audience capacity, whichever is lower.

Next Steps

All businesses, regardless of which Phase their industry is in, should continue to monitor the New York Forward website for additional guidance and potential changes in guidance.

Phase Four signals the last phase in New York’s reopening–for now. With the rapidly changing dynamics, additional industry-specific guidance may be added to the state’s “Statewide Guidelines” page (discussed above).

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.