March 16, 2021 Updated COVID-19 Quarantine and Travel Guidance and New Leave Laws
KEEPING YOU INFORMED…
We are writing to provide you with a summary of recent changes to the NYS Department of Health’s (“DOH”) guidance regarding quarantine exemptions for certain individuals and to inform you of recently-passed legislation mandating up to four hours of paid leave that cannot be charged to accruals for employees who obtain a COVID-19 vaccination.
Quarantine Exemption for Certain Individuals Exposed to COVID-19
According to the DOH’s “Update: Health Advisory: Quarantine for Community Persons Exposed to COVID-19,” quarantine is no longer required for an asymptomatic individual who has been exposed to someone with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 if the exposed individual:
• Is fully vaccinated (defined as two or more weeks following receipt of a single-dose vaccine or, for vaccines requiring two doses, two or more weeks following the second dose); and
• Is within three months of receiving the single-dose vaccine or the second dose of a two-dose vaccine; and
• Has remained asymptomatic since the COVID-19 exposure.
Individuals exposed to COVID-19 who do not meet all three of the above criteria are required to undergo a full 14-day quarantine period (which can be reduced to 10 days if they remain asymptomatic during the quarantine period). There continues to be no testing requirement to end quarantine if an individual remains asymptomatic. Those who develop symptoms during a quarantine should seek immediate diagnostic testing.
In addition, consistent with CDC guidance, asymptomatic individuals who are exposed to COVID-19 and who previously were infected with, and recovered from, COVID-19, are not required to retest and quarantine if the COVID-19 exposure is within three months after the date of the start of the individual’s COVID-19 illness (symptom onset or positive test result).
Regardless of quarantine status, all COVID-19-exposed individuals must:
• Continue to monitor symptoms daily for 14 days;
• Continue to adhere to all recommended non-pharmaceutical interventions (e.g., hand hygiene, face coverings) regardless of vaccination status; and
• Immediately self-isolate and contact the local health department or their health care provider if symptoms develop so that they can report their change in health status and determine whether to seek testing.
Local health department contact tracing for exposed individuals will continue and, when determining whether to issue a quarantine order, will consider vaccination status. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, must isolate.
Note to our School Clients: Although we are aware that the new DOH guidance was directly sent by or on behalf of the State or a local DOH to our school district and BOCES clients, there is a question as to its applicability in the school context, especially in light of other recently-issued school-specific COVID-19 guidance such as the DOH’s February 2021 “Pre-K to Gr. 12 COVID-19 Toolkit.” Notably, the guidance does not explicitly state that it supplements the Toolkit; the Toolkit itself does not address vaccinated individuals. We have reached out to the State to confirm our belief that the new guidance is intended to supplement the Toolkit. We will let you know if the State provides a contrary response. In the meantime, we believe that you may implement the new guidance as written.
NYS Travel Advisory & Fully Vaccinated Individuals
The Governor recently announced that domestic travel restrictions would end as of April 1. In the meantime, and until the applicable guidance is updated, however, the NYS Travel Advisory’s requirements remain in effect. These requirements have been updated to address quarantine exemptions for fully vaccinated individuals. The main changes follow.
Asymptomatic individuals who meet the quarantine exemption criteria described above for exposed individuals are no longer required to quarantine upon returning to New York from travel to a non-contiguous U.S. state or territory for more than 24 hours. School employees, teachers and childcare workers are also subject to the above quarantine exemption if they are fully vaccinated. The guidance, however, does not extend the exemption to include those teachers, school employees and childcare workers who have recovered from a previous COVID-19 infection. Regardless of quarantine status, individuals must adhere to the same above-described requirements for exposed individuals (symptom monitoring, infection prevention measures; etc.). Travelers may be asked to show proof of vaccination status or recovery from a laboratory confirmed case of COVID-19.
All international travelers arriving in the U.S. must either quarantine for seven days and have a negative COVID-19 test three to five days after arrival or quarantine for 10 days without a COVID-19 test. These requirements apply to international travelers regardless of vaccination status or recovery from a previous COVID-19 infection.
Mandatory Paid Leave for Employees to Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine
On March 12, 2021, the Governor signed into law legislation requiring paid leave, for public and private-sector employees working in New York State, so that they can receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The law is effective immediately and expires on December 31, 2022.
In the public sector, the Civil Service Law was amended to add § 159-c, which grants public employees an excused, paid leave of absence for a “sufficient period of time, not to exceed four hours per vaccine injection,” unless a greater period of time is authorized by a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) or the employer. The leave may not be charged to employees’ paid time off or any other leave to which the employees are entitled. (This is similar to the leave for cancer screenings authorized pursuant to NY Civil Service Law § 159-b, except that COVID-19 vaccination leave is on a per vaccination basis instead of an annual basis.)
Likewise, for private sector employers (regardless of size), the Labor Law was amended to add § 196-c to provide for a “sufficient period of time, not to exceed four hours per vaccine injection,” unless a greater period of time is authorized by a CBA or the employer. The leave must be fully paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay and may not be charged to any other paid time off or to leave to which the employee may be entitled (including, but not limited to, NY Paid Sick Leave). Unlike in the public sector, however, these requirements may be waived in a CBA, provided that the waiver explicitly references this law.
Employers may not discharge, threaten, penalize, discriminate or retaliate against employees for exercising their rights pursuant to this law including, but not limited to, requesting or obtaining a leave of absence to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.
Employers should update their existing COVID-19 policies and procedures to be consistent with these new changes. Please do not hesitate to contact Alyssa Zuckerman at firstname.lastname@example.org or one of our other attorneys at 631-694-2300 if you have any questions regarding the information contained in this memorandum or would like assistance with developing policies and procedures for implementing same.
THIS MEMORANDUM IS MEANT TO ASSIST IN GENERAL UNDERSTANDING OF THE CURRENT LAW. IT IS NOT TO BE REGARDED AS LEGAL ADVICE. THOSE WITH PARTICULAR QUESTIONS SHOULD SEEK THE ADVICE OF COUNSEL.
 This new guidance is available at https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2021/03/update-to-covid19-community-quarantine-advisory-march-10-2021_0.pdf.
 This guidance does not apply to vaccinated inpatients and residents in health care settings.