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A Safety Plan for the Next Outbreak

Plan of action. The New York Health and Essential Rights Act (NY HERO Act) requires all employers in New York State to adopt plans to respond to future airborne infectious disease outbreaks. Employers must adopt a model plan – a form is available on the Department of Labor website – and share it with employees no later than 30 days after adopting it. 


Old idea, new wrinkle. While there currently isn’t a mandate for residential buildings to adopt a plan, Ken Jacobs, a partner at the law firm Smith Buss & Jacobs, believes that there eventually will be. “That means there could be an impact on co-ops and condos, since they are employers,” he says. The good news is that many of the measures required by the HERO Act are similar to the safety protocols that were implemented early in the COVID-19 pandemic, including face coverings, physical distancing, hand hygiene and health screenings. “I don't see any difference between what co-ops and condos should have developed over the past year and what the HERO Act will require them to do in the future,” Jacobs adds. “Any prudent co-op or condo has already taken appropriate steps.”

Be prepared. Once plans are adopted – the deadline for business employers was in August 2021 – they don’t need to be implemented until the State Commission of Health designates a disease as presenting “a serious risk of harm to the public health.” While it’s unclear what the threshold is (the highly contagious Delta variant had not been designated as such as of press time), boards would do well to start preparing early. “The consensus among the management industry is that if the state makes such a designation, it will contain specific actions that require employers to amend their current plans,” says Michael Wolfe, the president of property management at FirstService Residential. “However, employers, including co-op and condo boards, can use their current protocols as a starting point.”

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