Columbia Comeback, in partnership with our community and business leaders, is committed to serve as a resource for Columbia County businesses as the county looks ahead to the time when we can resume business activities. This page will provide up-to-date information and resources to help prepare businesses as they work to ramp up to full operation.
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New York State Issues Guidance for Re-Opening of Businesses
What is Required of Businesses in Order to Re-Open
New York State has issued detail guidance on the Governor’s “New York Forward” Plan, under with the State will re-open in four phases on a regional basis. The guidance includes additional information regarding: (1) when regions will be permitted to begin a phased re-opening; (2) which businesses are included in each of the four phases; (3) what is required of business in order to re-open: and (4) how compliance will be enforced.
When Are Regions Able to Re-Open?
While the PAUSE Order has been extended until at least May 28, starting May 15, regions may begin a phased re-opening provided they satisfy seven criteria. According to the Plan, these criteria ensure that re-opening will only proceed in a region if:
- The infection rate is sufficiently low;
- The health care system has the capacity to absorb potential resurgence in new cases;
- Diagnostic testing capacity is sufficiently high to detect and isolate new cases; and
- Robust contact-tracing capacity is in place to help prevent the spread of the virus.
The State has developed a Regional Monitoring Dashboard to track the progress of each region. As of May 29, all regions with the exception of New York City – have satisfied the criteria and this are able to enter the first phase of re-opening.
Which Business Are Included in Each Phase?
Within each region, non-essential businesses will be permitted to re-open in four phases with a two-week period in between each phase to monitor hospitalization and infection rates. If these indicators become problematic, a regional oversight institution will have the authority to slow down or stop the re-opening process. Businesses that typically draw a large number of visitors from outside the region are required to remain closed throughout the re-opening.
Notable, the re-opening guidance only applies to non-essential businesses. Businesses already deemed essential by the Empire State Development (ESD) Corporation’s guidance – and those that support essential businesses – have remained open during the shutdown and will continue to remain open during the phased re-opening. However, all businesses (including essential businesses) will be required to implement health and safety plans.
- Phase One: Construction, Agriculture, Retail, Manufacturing, and Wholesale Trade
- Phase Two: All Office-Based Jobs, Real Estate Services, Retail (In-Store Shopping), Limited Barbershop and Hair Salon Services
- Phase Three: Restaurants, Food Services
- Phase Four: Arts, Entertainment, Recreation and Education
What is Required of Businesses in Order to Re-Open?
Every business must develop a health and safety plan to protect employees and consumers, make the physical workplace safer, and implement processes that lower risk of infection. These requirements apply to all businesses, including essential businesses that remained open during the shutdown. In developing their health and safety plans, employers must consider three main factors:
- Protections for Employees and Customers – Including adjustments to workplace hours and shift design as necessary to include workplace density, enacting social distancing protocols and restricting non-essential travel for employees.
- Changes to the Physical Workspace – Including requiring all employees and customers to wear masks or face coverings if in frequent close contact with others and implementing strict cleaning and sanitation protocols.
- Processes the Meet Our Changing Public Health Obligations – Including screening individuals when they enter the workplace or reporting confirmed positive cases to customers.
For each industry phase, the State is issuing the following:
- Summary of which safety practices are mandatory and which practices are recommended;
- Detailed interim guidance document;
- Business safety plan template
As a business owner, here’s what you need to do to resume business:
1. Business owners must read the “Detailed Guidelines” for their industries
2. Provide digital signature affirming you have read and understand the document. This is applicable for both businesses currently open and operating as “essential”, and those opening under the guidelines of the current phase
Sign the Business Affirmation | Read the Industry Guidelines
3. Businesses reopening must also develop a written Safety Plan outlining how the workplace will prevent the spread of COVID-19. Businesses may create their own plan, or use the NYS template to fulfill the requirement.
Business Re-Opening Safety Plan Template
4. Plan does not need to be submitted, however must be retained on the premises of the business and made available to NYS Department of Health and/or local health and safety authorities in the event of an inspection.
The State has issued a “Reopening Lookup Tool” that employers can use to determine whether or not their business is permitted to re-open and identify the guidance that applies to their business.
How will Compliance Be Enforced?
Employers should not delay in making preparations regarding their safety plans, particularly with respect to procuring PPE and other materials that are necessary to operate safely. According to an FAQ issued by the ESD, businesses that cannot fully comply with the guidance will not be issued waivers because of the ongoing health and safety concern. The guidance explicitly states that “if your business cannot procure the required protective equipment, then your business cannot operate safely.” Businesses that are having trouble complying because they cannot procure an adequate supply of PPE are encouraged to contact ……
The Governor’s website is currently inviting individuals to submit complaints against businesses that do not comply with the guidelines through an online form. Complaints will be reviewed by a team of investigators from multiple state agencies and then referred to local authorities, which will then be responsible for responding to the alleged violations.