Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources

The NYSOA is committed to being a resource for members and patients of the optometric community during this difficult time. We are gathering news, information and resources and will be updating this page regularly as we receive additional updates. Please check back frequently and feel free to contact us with questions.

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7/29/21 CDC GUIDELINES UPDATES

Vaccines

New York has not imposed any private sector vaccine mandate.  This week, Governor Cuomo announced a vaccine requirement (or weekly COVID testing if the employee refuses to take the vaccine) for state public sector employees by Labor Day.  See below from his 7/28 remarks:

President Biden is reported that he's going to announce soon that all federal employees must be vaccinated or get tested. New York State is doing the same and we're working with our unions to implement this quickly and fairly, but we want to get it done by Labor Day, and I encourage all local governments to do the same.

He also announced a vaccine requirement (with no testing option) for patient facing employees at state-run hospitals by Labor Day:

So in New York and our state hospitals, all patient facing healthcare workers must get vaccinated. There will be no testing option for patient facing healthcare workers. That is a point of contact that could be a serious spreading event and we want to make sure that those healthcare workers are vaccinated - period.

The Governor’s remarks in full are here: https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-audio-photos-rush-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-patient-facing-healthcare-workers

A separate press release lists the state facilities where the vaccine requirement applies: https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-patient-facing-healthcare-workers-state-run-hospitals-will-be

They are:

  • SUNY Stony Brook
  • SUNY Upstate
  • SUNY Downstate
  • Long Island Veterans Home at Stony Brook
  • Helen Hayes Hospital
  • SUNY College of Optometry
  • Montrose Veterans Home
  • St. Albans Veterans Home
  • Oxford Veterans Home
  • Batavia Veterans Home

Mask Guidance (as of 3/2/2022)

Masking in healthcare settings remains an evolving (and confusing) area as New York State and New York City begin to remove mask restrictions in certain indoor settings.   It is important that each member not only review the CDC Guidance and NYS/NYC requirements, but also any applicable local/county requirements.  Each member must determine the application of the guidance/rules to their geographic location, practice setting, and patient population.  

CDC Infection Control Guidance

  1. Covers “healthcare settings” - https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/infection-control-recommendations.html   “Healthcare settings refers to places where healthcare is delivered and includes, but is not limited to, acute care facilities, long-term acute-care facilities, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, home healthcare, vehicles where healthcare is delivered (e.g., mobile clinics), and outpatient facilities, such as dialysis centers, physician offices, dental offices, and others.”

  2. For your reference, here is the most recent update on the above CDC guidance provided by the AOA this week: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidance regarding the use of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/covid-by-county.html ) CDC has clarified that these new guidelines “
    do not apply in healthcare settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes. Instead, healthcare settings should continue to use community transmission rates and continue to follow CDC’s infection prevention and control recommendations for healthcare settings.” The CDC’s standing recommendations regarding the use of masks in health care settings suggest that everyone in the health care setting wear a mask.  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/infection-control-recommendations.html However, CDC has also outlined allowances to consider when developing safety plans and operation plans for health care facilities. CDC indicates that whether an individual is vaccinated or if the health care facility is located in a county with low to moderate community transmission should be factors to consider in developing masking requirements.  As this guidance from CDC is not state or federal law, doctors of optometry should consider these recommendations as well any state level requirements or mandates when developing masking policies.  

NYS 

  1. The DOH Order setting forth where masking is required in New York provides the following relative to a “healthcare setting (i.e., facilities or entities regulated under Articles 28, 36 and 40 of the Public Health Law)”: 

Healthcare settings: a. Personnel: After careful review and consideration of CDC recommendations for face masks in healthcare settings regulated by the Department, I hereby adopt such recommendations, imposing them as requirements, where applicable. Accordingly, all personnel, regardless of vaccination status, in a healthcare setting (i.e., facilities or entities regulated under Articles 28, 36 and 40 of the Public Health Law) shall wear an appropriate face mask in accordance with applicable CDC exceptions, until this determination is modified or rescinded. b. Visitors to Healthcare Facilities: After careful review and consideration of CDC recommendations, all visitors two years of age and older and able to medically tolerate a face covering/mask shall be required to wear a face covering/mask in health care facilities, regardless of vaccination status, subject to applicable CDC exceptions, and until this determination is modified or rescinded.

         2. The DOL’s HERO Act Model Plan was amended February 10th to state the following: [Another amendment to remove schools       
              from this paragraph is likely forthcoming] 

Effective February 10, 2022: Employees will wear appropriate face coverings in accordance with guidance from State Department of Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as applicable. Consistent with the guidance from the State Department of Health, if indoor areas do not have a mask or vaccine requirement as a condition of entry, appropriate face coverings are recommended, but not required. It is also recommended that face coverings be worn by unvaccinated individuals, including those with medical exemptions, in accordance with federal CDC guidance. Further, the State’s masking requirements continue to be in effect for pre-K to grade 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, health care, child care, group homes, and other sensitive settings in accordance with CDC guidelines.   New York State and the State Department of Health continue to strongly recommend face coverings in all public indoor settings as an added layer of protection, even when not required.

 

NYC

  1. The NYC Department of Health states that “Everyone, vaccinated or not, must wear a mask … When in a health care setting” - https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/imm/covid-19-face-covering-faq.pdf 

 

REOPENING

On June 15th, Governor Cuomo announced that COVID-19 restrictions are lifted immediately as 70 percent of New Yorkers aged 18 or older have received the first dose of their COVID-19 vaccination series. The State's health guidance and New York Forward industry specific guidelines—including social gathering limits, capacity restrictions, social distancing, cleaning and disinfection, health screening, and contact information for tracing—are now optional for retail, food services, offices, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, hair salons, barber shops and personal care services, among other commercial settings. Consistent with the State's implementation of the recent CDC guidance, masks are still required for unvaccinated individuals. Further, the State's health guidelines continue to be in effect for large-scale indoor event venues, pre-K to grade 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and health care settings per CDC guidelines.

As referenced in the Governor’s announcement, the State’s health guidelines continue to be in effect for “health care settings per CDC guidelines”. The State’s New York Forward Website still references the “Safety Plan Template” for various health care providers’ offices. There is no additional information available from the State at this time, as to updated guidelines, or a definition of “health care setting.”  However, the CDC guidance referenced by the State defines “healthcare settings” as “places where healthcare is delivered and includes, but is not limited to, acute care facilities, long term acute care facilities, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, home healthcare, vehicles where healthcare is delivered (e.g., mobile clinics), and outpatient facilities, such as dialysis centers, physician offices, and others.” In addition, in February, the AOA stated that the CDC guidance applies to “all U.S. health care settings, including optometry practices.”

The current CDC guidance that remains in place for healthcare settings is available here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/infection-control-after-vaccination.html. This guidance was updated this spring for healthcare settings, but states that “[e]xcept as noted in the Updated Recommendations below, HCP should continue to follow all current infection prevention and control recommendations, including those addressing work restrictions, quarantine, testing, and use of personal protective equipment to protect themselves and others from SARS-CoV-2 infection.” Until New York publishes additional guidance that defines health care facilities, optometry practices should continue to follow the practices that they have had in place to date under the New York guidelines and the CDC guidance applicable to health care settings.

We do note, however, that the New York Forward Website has previously stated that optometry “offices that sell optical goods should affirm the guidance below”, which referenced the Retail guidance. The Retail specific guidance is now lifted, and the social gathering limits, capacity restrictions, social distancing, cleaning and disinfection, health screening, and contact information for tracing provisions are now optional for retail establishments. Optometry practices that have separate spaces for the sale of optical goods may be able to incorporate the lifting of the retail requirements for  those areas of their business if they choose, but we believe they still must comply with the CDC requirements for all aspects for the optometry office health care setting. We note that per the State’s announcement this week, even with the lifting of the retail minimum requirements, optometry practices with separate optical goods functions, are free to choose to lift all or some restrictions for the retail function, continue to adhere to the State's archived retail guidance, or implement other health precautions for their employees and customers, and are also authorized to still require masks and six feet of social distancing for employees and customers within the separate retail portion, regardless of vaccination status. Any mask requirements that businesses choose to implement must adhere to applicable federal and state laws and regulations, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

For further details and updates please continue to refer to forward.ny.gov/reopening-reference-guide and coronavirus.health.ny.gov.

VACCINE INFORMATION

As of 8/17/2021 - “The State Department of Health will issue Section 16 Orders requiring all hospital, LTCF, and nursing homes to develop and implement a policy mandating employee vaccinations, with limited exceptions for those with religious or medical reasons.”
This does not include private practices.

All individuals 16 years of age and older that reside in the United States are eligible to receive the vaccine. Visit covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov to find appointments at state-run sites and other sites.

Optometrists and their staff became eligible to receive vaccines starting January 4, 2021, as part of the Phase 1a distribution guidance.

PRACTICE CONSIDERATIONS AND RESUMING REGULAR OPERATIONS

Optometrists are permitted to resume regular operations statewide as of May 17, 2020.  NYSOA has compiled the following information for optometrists to consider as they plan to resume regular operations.  Additional mandates may be required by NYS and we will inform members as they become available.  Use the NY Forward Business Reopening Tool to check your county's status and get COVID-19 guidance that may apply to your business activities under your NAICS industry code.

NAICS Codes:
  • 621320 - Offices of Optometrists
  • 446130 - Optical Goods Stores

Safety Plan Required:  For businesses to provide services, New York State is requiring that they develop written Safety Plans outlining how their workplace will prevent the spread of COVID-19, including requirements related to social distancing, use of personal protective equipment, hygiene and cleaning, communication, and screening.  Businesses may complete a template safety plan prepared by the State to fulfill this requirement, or they may develop their own safety plans that are compliant with the State standards.  Plans are not required to be submitted to a state agency for approval, but must be retained on the premises of the business and available to the New York State Department of Health or local health or safety authorities in the event of an inspection.

Safety Plan Template

Additional resources for resuming regular operations:

  1. COVID Considerations for Optometry Practices
  2. 10 Simple Steps to Consider when Reopening Optometric Practice
  3. NY FORWARD BOOK: A Guide to Reopening NY and Building it Back Better
  4. Map of 10 Regions of the State and List of Counties Within Each Region
  5. Regional Monitoring Dashboard
  6. NY Forward Business Reopening Tool
  7. NY Forward COVID-19 Micro-Cluster Strategy

 PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE) TIPS & STRATEGIES

NEW YORK STATE UPDATES

Read more and get the latest at coronavirus.health.ny.gov

2/9/22 Mask Requirement Update

Governor Kathy Hochul announced earlier today at a COVID briefing that New York State will lift the current mask mandate in place for indoor businesses effective tomorrow, February 10, 2022.  This does not apply for individuals in schools, childcare, health care facilities, prisons, homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters and public transit. Counties, local health departments and businesses can maintain a mask mandate should they choose to do so. The Governor plans to reevaluate the masking requirement for schools on March 7th, after closely monitoring the effects of the February break on transmission rates.

What does this mean for optometry practices? 

Governor Hochul’s press release states that “health care settings regulated by the Department of Health and other related state agencies will continue to require masks.”  In addition, separate from today’s announcement, the CDC’s “Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Healthcare Personnel During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic” still generally recommends the use of masks in all healthcare settings including “outpatient facilities, such as dialysis centers, physician offices, dental offices, and others.”  Therefore, the mask requirement still remains in effect for optometry practices.

Please note: the NYSOA received confirmation that licensed optometrists may provide acute and emergency care to patients during the pendency of the current COVID-19 emergency.  Optometrists have been determined to be essential health care operation providers, and the treatment of patients for such care will not be a violation of Executive Orders 202.6, 202.7, and 202.8 as such directives relate to the prohibition on workers being present at worksites. 

Optometrists should comply with best practices to limit the exposure to and the spread of COVID-19, including that all efforts are taken to reduce the person density at facilities and that social distance is maintained to the greatest extent possible under the circumstances of the care being provided; and that optometrists should follow published guidance for the cleaning and disinfection of facilities.  See New York State Department of Health Interim Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfection of Public and Private Facilities for COVID-19 at https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2020/03/cleaning_guidance_general_building.pdf.

Important Notes

  • Governor Cuomo signed the bill guaranteeing job protection and pay for New Yorkers who have been quarantined as a result of novel coronavirus. See the COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Statute Chart below for additional details.
  • Testing is free for all eligible New Yorkers as ordered by a health care provider.
  • Your local health department is your community contact for COVID-19 concerns.

NEW YORK STATE COVID-19 PAID SICK LEAVE STATUTE

  • Applicable to Each Employee Subject to a Mandatory or Precautionary Order of Quarantine or Isolation Issued by New York State or a Local Government Entity
  • Effective Immediately Upon Becoming a Law

Employer Size (as of 1/1/20)

Sick Leave Benefit/Duration

Terms and Conditions

1-10 employees

Unpaid sick leave (until termination of any mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation).

After 5 days of paid sick leave, employee will be eligible for Paid Family Leave and disability benefits (weekly benefit capped at $840.70 and $2,043.92, respectively).

-No loss of accrued sick leave.

-Must be compensated at regular rate of pay for regular hours.

-Job is protected, and there can be no retaliation.

-No benefits if the employee contracts virus while traveling to a country for which the CDC has a level 2 or 3 travel notice, and travel is not for the employer.

 

1-10 employees & greater than $1 million in employer net income (prior tax year)

-Unpaid sick leave (until termination of any mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation); and,

-5 days of paid sick leave.

After 5 days of paid sick leave, employee will be eligible for Paid Family Leave and disability benefits (weekly benefit capped at $840.70 and $2,043.92, respectively).

11-99 employees

-Unpaid sick leave (until termination of any mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation); and,

-5 days of paid sick leave.

After 5 days of paid sick leave, employee will be eligible for Paid Family Leave and disability benefits (weekly benefit capped at $840.70 and $2,043.92, respectively).

100 or more employees

14 days of paid sick leave.

N/A

 

NEW YORK STATE SHARED WORK PROGRAM - LAYOFF ALTERNATIVE: https://labor.ny.gov/ui/dande/sharedwork1.shtm

SUMMARY OF FEDERAL FAMILY FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT (HR 6201) 

The President has signed into law the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (known as HR 6201). The new law, effective in 15 days:

  • Enacts the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act. Employers with less than 500 employees are required to provide up to 12 weeks of leave to employees under this amendment to the Federal Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Specifically, there is a new leave entitlement under the FMLA for employees who have been employed for at least 30 calendar days and who are seeking leave because they are unable to work (or telework) due to the need to care for the son or daughter whose school or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency with respect to COVID-19 declared by a Federal, state, or local authority.
    • Employers of healthcare providers or emergency responders may exclude these employees from this new leave entitlement.
    • The Secretary of Labor may also exempt businesses with fewer than 50 employees when such leave would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.
    • The first ten days of this new leave category may be unpaid except that the employee may elect to substitute any accrued vacation, personal, medical, or sick leave in place of the unpaid leave. For all subsequent days, the employer must provide paid leave equal to at least two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay, not to exceed $200/day and $10,000 in the aggregate.
    • For employers with less than 25 employees, reinstatement will not be required if the position no longer exists due to economic conditions of the employer caused by a public health emergency, and the employer makes reasonable efforts to restore the employee to an equivalent position.
  • Enacts the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. This is a new federal emergency paid leave benefits program similar to what many states (including New Jersey and New York) enacted over the past few years. Employers must provide paid sick time to the extent the employee is unable to work (or telework) due to a need for leave because the employee:
    1. Is subject to quarantine or isolation order related to Coronavirus;
    2. Has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to Coronavirus;
    3. Is experiencing symptoms related to Coronavirus and is seeking medical diagnosis;
    4. Is caring for an individual who is subject to a quarantine or isolation order or who has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine;
    5. Is caring for a son or daughter if their school or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider is unavailable due to Coronavirus; or
    6. Is experiencing any substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Labor.
  • There shall be 80 hours of paid sick time for full-time employees, and, for part-time employees, the average hours worked over a two week period. The paid sick time shall not exceed $511/day and $5,110 in the aggregate when the leave is for any of (1), (2) or (3) above; or $200/day and $2,000 in the aggregate when the leave is for any of (4), (5) or (6) above.
  • Employers of healthcare providers or emergency responders may exclude these employees from this new leave entitlement.
  • Employers may not require the use of other paid leave before the use of paid sick time.
  • It shall be unlawful to discharge, discipline, or otherwise discriminate against any employee who takes leave under this new act.
  • The Secretary of Labor may also exempt businesses with fewer than 50 employees when such leave would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.
  • Provides tax credits for the paid sick leave and paid family leave mandates placed on employers.
    • Employers would receive a tax credit equal to all paid sick leave wages and paid family medical leave wages against the 6.2% social security tax and the 1.45% Medicare tax on wages paid by the employer as to all employees, refundable in some instances, with some limits based upon the reason for the employee’s leave.
  • Enacts the Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act. This expands unemployment benefits and provide grants to states to process and pay claims.
  • Requires employers to provide additional protections for healthcare workers. Specifically, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) would be required to issue a temporary standard requiring employers to develop and implement a comprehensive infectious disease exposure control plan to protect healthcare workers.

 

SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION OFFERING FINANCIAL RELIEF TO PRACTICES

In addition to traditional SBA funding programs, the federal CARES Act established several new temporary programs to address the COVID-19 outbreak, including the Paycheck Protection Program and the EIDL Emergency Advance.

Click here to view a comparison worksheet of the various SBA disaster loan programs (Credit: Michael Aumack, Project Manager, U.S. Small Business Administration).

Practices in 3 New York counties -- Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester -- are also eligible to apply for traditional Disaster Loan Assistance (this is based on the state or federal government having made an economic injury declaration for the particular county). Interest rates are not to exceed 4 percent and loans up to $2 million are available. The deadline to apply for a loan is December 16, 2020.

Click here to apply online and select “Economic Injury” when applying for a loan. Detailed information about loan eligibility and terms is here. Check regularly the following link for additional counties that might be added: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

LINKS AND RESOURCES

Page updated 06/17/2021.