New York has been “On Pause” for over a month now. But last week, Andrew Cuomo’s office began outlining initial steps toward a phased, regional reopening plan titled New York Forward. Cuomo announced guideposts of the initial stages of the New York Forward plan, which are intended to inform decisions made as the New York’s recovery evolves.
The reopening will involve a myriad of data and many judgment calls. To aid in this herculean decision-making effort, the Governor created a NY Forward Advisory Board, which will be offering guidance to the state on its reopening process. The Board includes over 100 community, business, and civic leaders. It is clear from the names on the Board that the Governor’s office took great lengths to make sure a variety of regional and perspective diversity was included on the Board. It is chaired by two former Secretaries to the Governor: Bill Mulrow and Steve Cohen. Members of the Board linked to Central New York include:
- Melanie Littlejohn, the Board chair of CenterState CEO and vice president for National Grid;
- Linda Brown-Robinson, President of the NAACP of Syracuse and Onondaga County;
- Fanny Villarreal, YWCA Syracuse Executive Director;
- Jeff Wilpon, COO of the NY Mets (parent company of the Syracuse Mets);
- Nicole Wegman, Wegmans senior vice president; and
- Joanie Mahoney, former Onondaga County Executive and current Chief Operating Officer at SUNY ESF.
Phased Plan Guidelines:
1. Do No Harm. Continue controlling the rate of infection. This includes extending the NY Pause order until May 15 and implementing additional measures to reduce the rate of infection, including requiring masks in public when social distancing is not possible.
2. Harden the Healthcare System. Continue the surge and flex strategy to ensure anyone who needs medical attention gets it, building out the strategic stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical equipment and sharing resources among states and localities.
3. Develop Testing and Contact Tracing Protocol. The best data to inform decisions and calibrate the progress of any phased reopening of the economy will come via diagnostic and antibody testing. The state is working with federal partners to rapidly scale up testing. A new state-of-the-art contact tracing program was launched by New York State with the partnership of former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Bloomberg Philanthropies and Johns Hopkins University.
4. The ‘Un-Pause NY’ Approach is Designed to Open Businesses in Phases of Priority. Businesses that are considered “more essential” and have inherently low risk of infection in the workplace and to customers will be prioritized, followed by businesses that are considered “less essential” or that present a higher risk of infection spread. As the infection rate declines, the pace of reopening businesses will be increased.
The Plan includes precautions and instructions for organizations to guide their phased return and to prepare for New York’s “new normal”:
Workplace: Redesign workplaces to include social distancing measures (e.g., desks 6 feet apart, modified conference rooms), and implement telecommuting for the most vulnerable.
Customer Interaction: Implement measures to maintain social distancing and ensure minimal contact with customers. Provide public-interacting employees with necessary protective supplies such as gloves and masks. Special precautions should be taken in businesses that primarily interact with the most vulnerable populations.
Proactive Infection Plan: Ensure protocols are in place (e.g., a work-from-home plan) should an employee develop COVID-19 symptoms or test positive.
Regional Requirements for Phased Reopening:
The Governor also outlined 12 requirements for each region to meet before it can “un-pause” and begin reopening. The plan divides the state using the existing regional council areas: Capital Region, Central New York, Finger Lakes, Long Island, Mid-Hudson Valley, Mohawk Valley, New York City, North Country, Southern Tier, and Western New York. These requirements are:
1. CDC Guidelines: Based on CDC recommendations, once a region experiences a 14-day decline in the hospitalization rate, it may begin a phased reopening.
2. Priority Industries for Reopening: Businesses in each region will reopen in phases. Phase one will include restarting construction and manufacturing functions with low risk. Phase two will open certain industries based on priority and risk level. Businesses that are considered “more essential” and have inherently low risk of infection in the workplace and to customers will be prioritized, followed by businesses that are considered “less essential” or that present a higher risk of infection spread. Regions must not open attractions or businesses that would draw a large number of visitors from outside the local area.
3. Business Precautions: Each business and industry must have a plan to protect employees and consumers, make the physical work space safer, and implement processes that lower the risk of infection in the business.
4. Building Healthcare Capacity: To maintain the phased reopening plan, each region must have at least 30 percent of hospital beds and ICU beds available after elective surgeries resume.
5. Testing Regimen: Regions must implement a testing regimen that prioritizes symptomatic persons and individuals who came into contact with a symptomatic person, and must conduct frequent tests of frontline and essential workers. Each region must maintain an appropriate number of testing sites to accommodate its population and must fully advertise where and how people can get tested. The region must also use the data collected to track and trace the spread of the virus.
6. Tracing System: There must be at least 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 people. The region must also monitor the regional infection rate throughout the reopening plan.
7. Isolation Facilities: Regions must present plans to have rooms available for people who test positive for COVID-19 and who cannot self-isolate.
8. Regional Coordination: Regions must coordinate the reopening of schools, transportation systems, testing and tracing with other surrounding regions.
9. Re-imagining Telemedicine
10. Re-imagining Tele-education
11. Regional Control Rooms: Each region must monitor businesses and regional indicators during the phased re-opening, including hospital capacity, rate of infection and PPE burn rate.
12. Protect and Respect Essential Workers: Regions must continue to ensure protections are in place for essential workers.
Please contact reach out to your everyday firm contacts or call us at (315) 445-1700 with any questions you may have on the state’s NY Forward process.
Christopher J. Baiamonte
Mr. Baiamonte concentrates his practice primarily on civil litigation. He counsels individual, corporate, and municipal clients on resolving disputes ranging from environmental liability to shareholders rights to creditor–debtor suits. He also works with clients to navigate various state and federal regulations relating to areas such as environmental protection, employment, and civil rights.