Coronoavirus (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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AOA Guidance to Doctors of Optometry on the CDC March 17 Announcement

The AOA supports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) patient care guidance issued on March 17 and the efforts of state and local authorities as well as state boards of optometry to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. Also, of critical importance are immediate efforts to assure access to essential health care, including urgent and emergent care provided by doctors of optometry, which can alleviate burdens on emergency departments.

Doctors of optometry are frontline providers of essential care. Urgent care is defined as medical care provided for illnesses or injuries that require prompt attention but are typically not serious enough to require emergency room services. Emergent care is defined as medical care for conditions requiring prompt medical attention due to a sudden change in the eye or visual health. Based on the immediate health needs of a patient, doctors of optometry can and should use their professional judgment to determine the timing and course of care, including assessing patient-expressed urgency, necessary preventative care and the monitoring and refilling of prescriptions.

In the current patient care environment, doctors and their essential staff have a responsibility to ensure that all appropriate care preparation guidelines and requirements are strictly observed. These include CDC guidance for health care facilities.

CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION (CDC) PUBLIC HEALTH REMINDER

Healthcare facilities and clinicians should prioritize urgent and emergency visits and procedures now and for the coming several weeks. The following actions can preserve staff, personal protective equipment, and patient care supplies; ensure staff and patient safety; and expand available hospital capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Delay all elective ambulatory provider visits
  • Reschedule elective and non-urgent admissions
  • Delay inpatient and outpatient elective surgical and procedural cases
  • Postpone routine dental and eyecare visits

Tools and resources exist as part of healthcare system preparedness plans and are often referred to as Pandemic Plans. Consult your state or local health department about specific plans for your community.

PRACTICE CONSIDERATIONS

Please note: These considerations are not policy but suggestions to help you make personal, individual decisions in the best interests of your businesses and patients. So far there have been no specific actions from the NYS Department of Health or the Governor for non-hospital based practices. We encourage you to develop both short-and long-term contingency business plans as we cannot predict the length of this pandemic. If your business is economically impacted, there have been federal and state initiatives put in place to offset these financial burdens. As we get more information, we as an association will be working to bring these resources to you.

  1. Consider postponing and rescheduling those patients age 60 years and older, patients with comorbidities, patients who are immunocompromised or closing your office to nonemergency visits. As noted above, the CDC currently recommends postponing all routine eyecare visits.

  2. Screening conducted by telephone may be a way to mitigate the risk from office visits. Ideally, this would be done on the day of service. Office hours could be delayed to accommodate for this. Use the CDC recommended patient evaluation flow chart www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/2019-nCoV-identify-assess-flowchart-508.pdf. Patients who screen positive should be strongly advised to stay home or contact their PCP or urgent care center.

  3. Consider staggering appointment times or spread out appointments to socially distance patients.

  4. Contemplate implementing virtual check-ins via text from your parking lot to reduce time in your waiting room.

  5. Consider taking the temperature of patients that have to be seen when they enter your office.

  6. Ask caregivers accompanying patients to their appointments to remain in their cars unless assistance is absolutely needed to reduce congregating in waiting rooms - implement social distancing procedures.

  7. Reduce patients moving from room to room and keep patients isolated from others as much as possible.

  8. Use universal precautions and follow disinfection recommendations from the CDC. This goes beyond basic personal and clinic hygiene. Re-evaluate your disinfecting procedures.

  9. Consider strategies to reduce person to person exposure at the slit lamp.

  10. Contemplate how you want to handle in office contact lens hygiene especially for new fits.

  11. Consider rotating doctors and staff seeing patients on different days (platooning) to reduce risk of multiple practitioners from being exposed simultaneously.

  12. Implement telemedicine and phone triage techniques for nonemergency eye conditions.

NEW YORK STATE UPDATES

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

Governor Cuomo announced the "New York State on PAUSE" executive order, a 10-point policy to assure uniform safety for everyone.

The 10-point NYS on PAUSE plan is as follows: 

1. Effective at 8PM on Sunday, March 22, all non-essential businesses statewide will be closed; (for guidance on ESSENTIAL businesses, including health care operations, see Governor Cuomo Issues Guidance on Essential Services Under The 'New York State on PAUSE' Executive Order)

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 an essential health care operation provider, 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.

2. Non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason (e.g. parties, celebrations or other social events) are canceled or postponed at this time;

3. Any concentration of individuals outside their home must be limited to workers providing essential services and social distancing should be practiced;

4. When in public individuals must practice social distancing of at least six feet from others;

5. Businesses and entities that provide other essential services must implement rules that help facilitate social distancing of at least six feet;

6. Individuals should limit outdoor recreational activities to non-contact and avoid activities where they come in close contact with other people;

7. Individuals should limit use of public transportation to when absolutely necessary and should limit potential exposure by spacing out at least six feet from other riders;

8. Sick individuals should not leave their home unless to receive medical care and only after a telehealth visit to determine if leaving the home is in the best interest of their health;

9. Young people should also practice social distancing and avoid contact with vulnerable populations; and

10. Use precautionary sanitizer practices such as using isopropyl alcohol wipes

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 light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) federal emergency declaration, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has expanded access to low interest loans. Practices in 3 New York counties are eligible to apply for the loans (see below). 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

Practices in the following counties are eligible to apply for an SBA loan (this is based on the state or federal government having made an economic injury declaration for the particular county): Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester. 

Check regularly the following link for additional counties that might be added: Coronavirus (COVID-19).

 

LINKS AND RESOURCES

Page updated 03/23/2020.