NY COVID-19 Response – NY HERO Act Designation Ends

In a press release on Tuesday, March 22nd, Governor Kathy Hochul announced the State’s daily COVID positivity rate is 2.36% and the seven-day average positivity rate is 1.78%. There are 950 COVID hospitalizations statewide, 162 COVID patients in the ICU, 71 COVID intubations, and 7 New Yorkers died from the virus on Monday, March 21st.

Due to the continuing decrease in statewide COVID numbers, the mask mandate for New York’s schools was lifted on Wednesday, March 2nd. “With more New Yorkers getting vaccinated, and the steady decline over the past several weeks in cases and hospitalizations from Omicron, we are now entering a new phase of the pandemic. Because New Yorkers have stepped up, we can confidently remove the statewide mask requirement in our schools,” Governor Kathy Hochul said. “This is a huge step forward for our kids and communities and I am grateful to the students, educators and parents for their dedication to keeping us all safe – we’ve reached this milestone because of your hard work.” Although the mask mandate has been lifted for schools, it still remains in effect for state-regulated healthcare facilities, state-regulated adult care facilities and nursing homes, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, and on public transit. 

The end of the mask mandate builds on the Department of Health’s decision last week to allow its HERO Act designation to expire. “On March 17, 2021, the designation of COVID-19 as an airborne infectious disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health under the HERO Act ended. Private sector employers are no longer required to implement their workforce safety plans,” said the Department of Labor, which helps implement the HERO Act, in a statement on its website last Friday.

The HERO Act, which was passed and signed by former Governor Cuomo last year, states that when the Department of Health formally designates a virus as a “highly contagious communicable disease,” all employers must implement a plan to protect their employees from airborne infectious diseases. Such designation had been in place since September, with the Commissioner of Health renewing it every 30-days. Although the designation has expired, employers are still required to have a plan ready to implement if the Department of Health ever issues another designation.