COVID-19 Update
September 9, 2021
OPWDD Updated Return to Work Guidance
OPWDD distributed the long-awaited Revised COVID-19 Protocols for Direct Care Staff to Return to Work on September 2. The most significant change to the guidance is regarding how exposure to the virus is defined. For a staff member to be considered "exposed" to the virus, they must now have had "prolonged close contact with another person with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 while not wearing recommended personal protective equipment per CDC guidelines" [emphasis added].
As long as staff are following CDC guidelines for PPE, they would not be considered “exposed” and would not be subject to quarantine, even when in prolonged, proximate contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID. This includes both vaccinated and unvaccinated staff.  

The memo describes return to work criteria for four classes of “exposed” staff:
  • Asymptomatic Fully Vaccinated Staff
  • Asymptomatic Staff Who Have Recently Recovered From COVID-19
  • Asymptomatic Staff Exposed to COVID-19 Who are Not Fully Vaccinated and Not Recently Recovered from COVID-19
  • Staff With Confirmed or Suspected COVID-19

These categories remain generally unchanged from previous guidance. One change to note is that asymptomatic fully vaccinated staff who are “exposed” must wear masks through day 14 following exposure. 
COVID-19 Designated as an Airborne Infectious Disease Under NYS Hero Act
Governor Kathy Hochul announced Tuesday that the commissioner of health has designated COVID-19 as a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health under New York State's HERO Act. The Act requires all employers to implement workplace safety plans in the event of an airborne infectious disease, in an effort to prevent workplace infections.

The NY HERO Act mandates extensive new workplace health and safety protections in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the law, all employers are required to adopt and implement a workplace safety plan for all airborne infectious diseases designated by the New York State Department of Health. Employers can adopt a model safety plan crafted by the New York State Department of Labor, or develop their own safety plan in compliance with HERO Act standards. As a reminder, employers were required to adopt the model plan or develop their own safety plan by August 5, 2021. Employers should now review those plans and make any necessary changes before enacting them and notifying employees.
The plans adopted by employers must address a number of safety measures, including but not limited to: employee health screenings, masking and social distancing requirements, workplace hygiene stations, workplace cleaning protocol, quarantine protocol, and airflow technology. Employers are required to distribute their work safety plan to all employees and post it in a visible and prominent location at each work site.

Additionally, the HERO Act includes anti-retaliation protections for employees. These protections prohibit discrimination or adverse actions taken against an employee for following the requirements of these plans, reporting concerns on the implementation of a plan, or refusing to work if an appropriate plan is not being implemented.
A full list of resources and the Model Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plan can be found here.

CDC Launches New COVID-19 Resources for People with I/DD
The CDC announced the launch of a toolkit containing communications to assist in educating individuals with I/DD and their caregivers about how to protect themselves from COVID-19. The resources include videos, posters, tip sheets, and interactive activities focusing on getting the vaccine, mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing, and COVID testing. The full toolkit can be found here.

Preschool Testing Requirement
On September 2, the New York State Department of health issued a memorandum regarding mandatory testing requirements for P-12 schools. While there is language that broadly applies this requirement, there is an exception for standalone preschools that do not collocate with older students. Please review this guidance to determine if your Chapter's preschool may need to comply with this requirement.
CONTACT: Kate Geurin, Director for Communications and Public Relations
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