As we previously detailed here and here, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo recently outlined guidelines for when Empire State businesses can reopen and return to “in-person” operations. Under the Governor’s plan, reopenings are being determined, first, on a region-by-region basis and then, once a region is eligible to reopen, on a phased industry-by-industry basis.

Since the Governor made his initial reopening announcement, the State has published a slew of materials to assist businesses as they reopen. To further assist businesses, we have created a central location – i.e., this post – from which these materials can be accessed. Following, therefore, are links to, and details regarding, these important materials:

  • General information about Governor Cuomo’s “New York Forward” reopening plan can be found here. In conjunction with “New York Forward,” the Governor has also released this comprehensive reopening guide, which addresses business reopenings plus a host of other COVID-19-related issues.
  • To help businesses determine whether they can reopen within a particular region, the State has developed a business reopening lookup tool, which can be found here. The tool is intended to “help you determine whether or not your business is eligible to reopen, and the public health and safety standards with which your business must comply.”
  • Updated as of June 15: Additionally, the State’s regional monitoring dashboard – available here (and with more detailed information here) – shows where each of the Empire State’s 10 regions stands with regard to satisfying the Governor’s seven metrics for reopening. At long last, New York City satisfied these metrics last week, meaning that all 10 of the State’s regions have now reopened (at least to some extent).
  • Updated as of June 15: As we have previously discussed, the Governor’s “New York Forward” plan permits industries to reopen in four staggered phases (once, as a threshold matter, the region in which the business operates is eligible to reopen).

With New York City finally reopening last week, “phase one” industries – as detailed on this general “phase one” website – are now eligible to reopen in each of the State’s 10 regions. The phase one website provides detailed guidelines for reopening each specific phase one industry – namely, construction, non-food related agriculture, forestry, fishing, retail trade, manufacturing, wholesale trade, and higher education research. Notably, the final industry listed – higher education research – was only added to the “phase one” list last week.

In addition, “phase two” industries are, at present, eligible to reopen in all regions except for New York City. To that end, the State has published a general “phase two” website, as well as detailed reopening guidelines for each specific phase two industry – certain offices, real estate, essential and phase 2 in-store retail businesses, auto dealerships, retail rental, repair, and cleaning, commercial building management, and hair salons and barbershops. Interestingly, whereas malls were previously excluded entirely from the Governor’s reopening plan, just last week the State announced that stores in malls may now operate, so long as they do so through curbside pickup “at or near the general mall entrance.

And on Friday, the State announced that “phase three” industries are now permitted to reopen in five of the State’s 10 regions (Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, North Country, and Southern Tier). As with phases one and two, the State has published a general “phase three” website, as well as detailed reopening guidelines for the two phase three industries – food services (including indoor dining) and personal care (which does not include gyms).

  • Updated as of June 15: As we previously discussed, every business and industry is required to develop a written plan, as they reopen, to protect employees and consumers, make the physical workspace safer, and implement processes that lower the risk of infection in the business. New York has published a template business safety plan in this regard.

Businesses may fill out the template to satisfy the above requirement, or may develop their own written plan. Whatever option is chosen, the plan does not need to be submitted to a state agency for approval, but must be retained on the premises of the business and must made available to the New York State Department of Health or local health or safety authorities in the event of an inspection.

In addition to this plan, the State’s general phase one, two, and three websites require that businesses electronically affirm that they have read and will adhere to the guidelines specific to their industry (here, for instance, is a link to the required affirmation for construction industry companies).

  • The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has created this website with FAQs regarding businesses reopenings in New York. The website addresses common reopening questions, including how to determine whether and when your industry or region is permitted to reopen, and also includes a mechanism for employers to submit additional questions that have not yet been addressed.
  • Updated as of June 15: Finally, on June 11, the ESDC updated is guidance for determining whether a New York business is considered an “essential” business or entity. The updated guidance, which principally expands the list of permitted outdoor recreational activities, can be found here.

This is not the final guidance Governor Cuomo will issue regarding business reopenings, and we will update this post as additional information is published. To that end, Reed Smith’s attorneys are monitoring New York’s responses to COVID-19 and their related impact on employers. If you have any questions on how to ensure compliance with the state’s many new regulations, our team is available to assist.