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Cuomo signs legislation granting employees time off to receive COVID-19 vaccination

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Fri, Mar 12th 2021 05:30 pm

Public & private employees will be granted up to 4 hours of excused leave per injection

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday signed legislation (S.2588-A/A.3354-B) granting public and private employees time off to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Under this new law, employees will be granted up to four hours of excused leave per injection that will not be charged against any other leave the employee has earned or accrued.

This legislation becomes effective immediately.

"Our essential employees have been on the frontlines of this pandemic since day one, and as we begin to work toward a new normal in a post-pandemic world, it is critical that these employees are able to get vaccinated as quickly as possible to protect themselves and their families," Cuomo said. "This legislation will allow both public and private employees to take time off to get vaccinated without exhausting the leave they have earned, putting us one step closer to getting every single New Yorker vaccinated and defeating this virus once and for all."

Assemblyman Charles D. Fall said, "The quicker and more efficient we can get residents of New York vaccinated, the faster we can reopen businesses, further extend business hours in a safe manner, and once again achieve normalcy in our daily lives. We all realize that the vaccine roll-out has not been smooth, to date, but with the federal administration bringing forth a clear plan to get more vaccine in arms, this law ensures that hardworking New Yorkers are not forced to choose between losing wages and receiving their vaccination."

Expansion of ‘New York Forward’ Rapid Test Program To Help Businesses, Venues & Catered Events Reopen Safely

Cuomo also announced an expansion of the “New York Forward” rapid test program to help businesses and catered events safely reopen, with 26 sites opening within the next week for a total of 38 sites statewide. This unique public-private partnership – first announced in the governor's 2021 State of the State and launched last month – makes low-cost rapid testing available to the public to support enhanced economic activity as the state continues to reopen sectors of the economy, including weddings and catered events on March 15, and event, arts and entertainment venues on April 2.

To find participants in this initiative or to make an appointment, visit the program website.

"As more New Yorkers are vaccinated and rapid testing becomes more widely accessible, we can start to reopen the economy and give New Yorkers a semblance of normalcy while sticking to the same disciplined, data-driven approach that we've maintained throughout the pandemic," Cuomo said. "That's why the ‘New York Forward’ rapid testing program is expanding beyond its initial New York City footprint to support communities and economies on Long Island and in upstate New York. Together, we can use the tools and tests available to ensure we're staying socially responsible while helping our local businesses and strengthening the economy."

The “New York Forward” rapid test program aims to dramatically expand access to rapid testing to allow business and entertainment centers to more safely reopen. A press release said, “The network provides an additional layer of protection and confidence as New Yorkers resume economic activity, and it anticipates state guidance that will increase capacity limits contingent upon testing.”

Empire State Development Acting Commissioner and President and CEO-designate Eric Gertler said, "The statewide expansion of the ‘New York Forward’ rapid test program will further enhance this innovative initiative we launched to accelerate the state's post-pandemic economy. The program's public-private collaboration aims to provide patrons with the peace of mind and clinical certainty to stay safe while ensuring that businesses can reignite the commercial marketplace."

Testing providers participating in the network must make rapid testing available for no more than $30, provide participants with their results within 30 minutes, offer a mechanism for people to schedule in advance and report the results to the state.

To reduce the cost of testing for New Yorkers and expand the number of sites, the state is providing access to Abbott BinaxNow tests at cost to some providers and working with the Real Estate Board of New York, business improvement districts and other partners across the state to identify vacant spaces in commercial centers that can be donated for the testing network. A donated site must be in a commercially zoned corridor, contain at least 750 square-feet of open space, and be available immediately for a minimum of six months. Sites must have street-level access, a restroom and be Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant. Entities that meet the above criteria and are interested in participating should email [email protected] for consideration.

Individuals who are not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and who have not had a recent known exposure to COVID-19 may participate in this initiative by visiting participating locations and completing a questionnaire. Individuals must continue to comply with all “New York Forward” guidelines on reopening, including but not limited to the use of face coverings, social distancing, and other protocols.

Testing at the new and existing sites will be operated by BioReference Laboratories, Clarity MedHealth, Quest Diagnostics and Rapid Reliable Testing. Additional sites are expected to open in the coming weeks.

To find participants in this initiative and to make an appointment, visit the program website.

Sites open for booking include Quest Diagnostics at 98 John James Audubon Parkway in Buffalo.

The press release noted, “A negative test result does not rule out the possibility of infection or mean that an individual is not at risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. However, the initiative's screening and testing is another tool – in addition to the use of face coverings, social distancing and other protocols – that can put New York state businesses on track to reopen more safely at higher capacities. 

To learn more about the “New York Forward” rapid test program and view the Department of Health guidance, visit the program's website.

On Feb. 22, Cuomo announced that, beginning March 15, weddings and other catered events can resume statewide at 50% capacity with no more than 150 people per event. All patrons must be tested prior to the event.

On March 3, Cuomo announced that, beginning April 2, event, arts and entertainment venues can reopen at 33% capacity, up to 100 people indoors and up to 200 people outdoors and, if all attendees present proof of negative test prior to entry, capacity can increase up to 150 people indoors and up to 500 people outdoors. Social distancing and face coverings will be required by all attendees, as well as strict adherence to all applicable Department of Health guidance.

New York has been at the forefront of developing testing capacity throughout the COVID-19 crisis, conducting more than 200,000 tests per day on average. Visit the Health Department's website to find a testing site nearby.

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