Dear Colleagues:

These are trying times that require patience, which is in short supply these days. ASNY has been seeking clarification on two definitions: "essential services" and "personal care services." As the deadline for the latter has expired with no information provided, ASNY considers it a non-issue and will turn its attention only in providing you with as much information as we can on "essential services." After reaching out to the NYSEd Acupuncture Board and the New York State Office of the Governor, it is important to tell you that the authoritative source for all of us is the Office of the Governor and that we are gathering they are relatively busy right now. And given the guidance coming out of their offices without ever speaking to us, we can assume that we are not alone as a profession in trying to determine what they consider essential services to be.

The first thing we can tell you is that the answer to whether acupuncture services are essential services during a pandemic is that we simply do not know. We will continue to monitor the information flow as it comes in and report to you. We cannot interpret the information, nor can we make policy or enforce it. We appreciate that from the beginning, people have been keeping us aware of their views, interpretations and opinions on everything from whether we are essential services to whether or not people should shut down. We, at ASNY, remind you that the job of issuing executive orders of mandated action and guidance at this time lies with the Office of the Governor and we ask that you bookmark this page for updates. We will include links from the New York Department of Health, and NYSED, and any vetted articles that is pertinent but will clarify that all roads lead back to the Office of the Governor.

Because many people have asked why our information is changing, our answer is that this is unprecedented and there are few protocols in place right now. Essentially, this is a moving target and we are doing our best to report accurately.

ASNY's first report on the subject of "essential services" was based off federal analysis of the Social Security Act which defines those who can deal with Medicare patients, who were expected to be the largest percentage of the population affected. If federal law were the authoritative source, Licensed Acupuncturists are not listed in the definitions.

The second report (just a couple of hours later) acknowledged that we needed to check with the state for their determination of what constitutes "essential services." We sought clarification on two definitions and have learned more about what we still do not know definitively. In relation to this, ASNY board members have been in contact with the NYS Acupuncture Board and have appreciated the open line of communication at this time. They, too, have expressed concern and compassion for how this crisis affects not only our practitioners and profession, but the public at large and urge everyone to continue looking to the Governor's Office for guidance.

We want to stress that seeking a definition for "personal care services" went only to the state Acupuncture Board for clarity, based solely on the idea that we did not want to be lumped into other professions that use needles. This deadline has passed and is a NON-ISSUE now. We are only focused on "essential services".

We also want to reiterate one of the biggest calls to action from the Governor's Office and that is "social distancing". Whether it is NYS PAUSE, Shelter-In-Place, or "Stay Home" policies, even if you are designated essential services they are urging people to stay home as much as possible. Please remember that it's not just your office your patients will be exposed to (sanitized as they may be,) it is also everything they must encounter on the way to and from your office. We should all be doing our best to minimize the risk of exposure for us all.

We are making every effort to get this right and apologize for any confusion created by issuing two separate pieces of information that are conflicting. As of right now, the only guidance we can commit to is that coming from the regulatory authority in New York issuing mandates.

As of right now, we can report that the Governor issued further guidance on "essential services". There are still unsubstantiated claims that we need to verify stating that herbal medicine supplies and prescribing may be considered essential. We will get back to you on this. We had heard from some practitioners that they spoke with the DOH and were told they were essential. We called the DOH and they did not verify that information, but instead said they were going by the list from the Governor's Office and were encouraging everyone to seek a designation if they felt they were essential, and that they would know something quickly. Their representative also conveyed that it was not a tool for associations to find out about whole professions or industries. This would designate singular businesses individually.

The pertinent highlights from this guidance is as follows:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced he is signing the "New York State on PAUSE" executive order, a 10-point policy to assure uniform safety for everyone. It includes a new directive that all non-essential businesses statewide must close in-office personnel functions effective at 8PM on Sunday, March 22. Guidance on essential services under the executive order is as follows:

ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES OR ENTITIES, including any for profit or non-profit, regardless of the nature of the service, the function they perform, or its corporate or entity structure, are not subject to the in-person restriction.

(Essential Businesses must continue to comply with the guidance and directives for maintaining a clean and safe work environment issued by the Department of Health).

This guidance is issued by the New York State Department of Economic Development d/b/a Empire State Development and applies to each business location individually and is intended to assist businesses in determining whether they are an essential business and steps to request such designation. With respect to business or entities that operate or provide both essential and non-essential services, supplies or support, only those lines and/or business operations that are necessary to support the essential services, supplies, or support are exempt from the restrictions. 

For purposes of Executive Order 202.6, "Essential Business," means:
1. Essential Health Care Operations, Including:
  • research and laboratory services
  • hospitals
  • walk-in-care health facilities
  • emergency veterinary and livestock services
  • elder care
  • medical wholesale and distribution
  • home health care workers or aides for the elderly
  • doctor and emergency dental
  • nursing homes, or residential health care facilities or congregate care facilities
  • medical supplies and equipment manufacturers and providers

If the function of your business is not listed above, but you believe that it is essential or it is an entity providing essential services or functions, you may request designation as an essential business.

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

Requests by businesses to be designated an essential function as described above, should only be made if they are NOT covered by the guidance.

To request designation as an essential business, please  click here .