Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on New York Forward and Business Reopening
Updated: July 25, 2020
For information related to establishments permitted to sell alcoholic beverages, please reference the State Liquor Authority Guidance.
- How do I know if I am in an industry and a region that is permitted to reopen?
Answer: Please refer HERE to determine if your business is in an industry that is eligible to reopen and HERE to see if your region has met the criteria necessary to reopen. For help determining whether or not your business is eligible to reopen, use the reopen lookup tool HERE.
- Where do I get the Guidance for my industry?
Answer: Please review the Industry Guidance documents HERE. Please note that these are subject to change.
Additionally, please review information related to the state’s regional control rooms HERE, which are a resource to regions throughout the reopening process.
- In which Phases will different types of businesses reopen?
Answer: Please see the Governor’s current reopening plan HERE. Note that this plan is subject to change, and is evolving continuously.
- My business was previously allowed to operate because I am providing a support function to an essential business. Am I allowed to continue operating, regardless of the Phase-related reopening of industries or regions?
Answer: Yes, your business is permitted to continue operations in support of an “essential” business designation, as previously permitted. You may be subject to additional health related requirements, to the extent you were not following such guidance prior. Please refer to the Essential Business Guidance and industry-specific documents HERE.
- If I am an essential business, am I subject to the new operating requirements detailed in the Guidance?
Answer: Yes. The increased measures detailed in the Guidance are in furtherance of public health and safety, and all businesses as well as units of State and local government are required to ensure this standard of safety.
My industry is not included in the newly posted Guidance, but my business, or certain parts of my business functions were “essential” under ESD’s Essential Business Guidance. Am I permitted to continue operating?
Answer: Yes, if your business or business function is currently “essential” under ESD’s Essential Business Guidance, you may continue to operate. Please continue to regularly check the New York Forward site for guidance that is applicable to your business or certain parts of your business functions. Once guidance is posted that is applicable, you should read and affirm that you are operating in accordance with the health and safety requirements designed to protect your employees and customers.
Due to special circumstances, I cannot fully comply with the Guidance, can I apply for a waiver?
Answer: No, due to health and safety concerns, waivers will not be issued.
Local Government operations were excluded from the essential business designation, does this mean all municipally owned sites can continue in counties that are still on PAUSE?
Answer: Municipal government operations should practice physical distancing and telecommuting as much as possible, however it is up to the individual municipality how they determine which functions are essential. All local governments are operating at a maximum of 50% in-person workforce presence.
What if my business cannot procure enough protective equipment for all workers?
Answer: If your business cannot procure the required protective equipment, then your business cannot operate safely. Your business can only reopen when you are able to fully supply adequate protective equipment and to help protect the health and safety of your workers. You may contact your county Office of Emergency Management for assistance in procuring PPE, to the extent it is available.
- Do I need to create a reopening plan? If so, what should my plan include? Can I receive a template or checklist from NYS?
Answer: Yes. All businesses, including essential businesses, must develop a COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan. Plan information may be found HERE. Your COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan should include the ways in which you intend to comply with the Guidance, to safely reopen. More information may be found HERE.
How is in-store pick up defined?
Answer: In-store pickup is defined as a customer placing an order for specific item(s) by phone or internet in advance, then collecting such order at the retail location. The retail location must abide by physical distancing requirements which prohibit occupancy within the location to no more than 50% of the maximum occupancy, including both employees and customers. Customers are only allowed on the premise to retrieve their prearranged order; not to browse or place an in-person order. Customers must maintain 6 feet of space from others or wear an acceptable face covering, if unable to maintain such distance.
- Do I need approval or confirmation from ESD, DOH or any State entity to re-open?
Answer: No. There are currently over 600,000 places of business in NYS, and the State is not able to provide confirmation to each business. Please review and acknowledge the requirements articulated in any guidance documents specific to your industry HERE to ensure that you are in compliance with the law.
- Is New York State enforcing the new reopening requirements?
Answer: Yes. Enforcement will occur at the local and state government levels.
- I am an essential business, but my industry is not yet permitted to reopen, and therefore I’m not sure which Industry Guidance I should attest to following. Is there a general “Best Health and Safety Practices” that I could review and attest to in the meantime?
Answer: All essential businesses that do not yet have issued industry Guidance must continue to comply with the guidance and directives for maintaining a clean and safe work environment issued by the Department of Health (DOH) and every business, even if essential and without industry-specific Guidance, is strongly urged to maintain social distancing measures to the extent possible and require use of masks when social distancing cannot be maintained. As additional industry specific Guidance is published, your business will need to operate in conformance to all industry-specific requirements included in such Guidance.
- If someone on my staff becomes sick, are we required to close the business? If so, for how long?
Answer: Businesses must comply with requirements for cleaning and disinfection if an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, and therefore may be required to close the business until this process is complete. Additionally, businesses should be aware that they may need to close if they are unable to maintain necessary staffing levels for operations depending on the exposures to other employees that may have occurred in the workplace.
- Can I refuse entry to someone not wearing a mask on site?
Answer: Yes, businesses must refuse entry so long as the refusal is not on a discriminatory basis.
- How will I know if there is change to the guidance?
Answer: Please continue to monitor HERE for changes to the Guidance. Additionally, for current information on the allowances permitted in your region, please contact your local Regional Control Room (see below for contact information).
- Does my business need to procure protective equipment for on-site contractors and visitors, or only my employees?
Answer: Your business is required to provide protective equipment for your employees and contractors pursuant to DOH guidance. To the extent that visitors are not complying, Executive Order 202.34, provides businesses “the discretion to ensure compliance with the directive in Executive Order 202.17 (requiring any individual over age two, and able to medically tolerate a face-covering, be required to cover their nose and mouth with a mask or cloth face-covering when in a public place), including the discretion to deny admittance to individuals who fail to comply with the directive in Executive Order 202.17 or to require or compel their removal if they fail to adhere to such directive.” Guidance requires you to assure that all employees, as well as customers and visitors are in compliance with the health requirements.
- I do not have adequate space to allow employees to social distance during lunch breaks. Am I required to provide lunch/break space, or can I close this space off entirely?
Answer: Employers are strongly encouraged to locate sufficient space to allow employees to socially distance during lunch or break, to stagger shifts and break times, and to take other steps to limit the number of employees on break or lunch at the same time.
- Can construction or rehabilitation activities be undertaken during Phase 1 of the State's reopening in tenant or owner occupied housing units?
Answer: Yes, construction or rehabilitation activities can be undertaken in tenant or owner occupied housing units if the following criteria are met. The owner must notify residents whose units will undergo construction and outline the safety precautions taken to minimize potential exposure to COVID-Such notice must include contact information for any concerns of non-compliance. Construction activity and cleaning protocols must follow Interim COVID-19 Guidance for Construction COVID-19 Guidance for Construction as well as all applicable CDC, DOH, EPA, and OSHA standards. For multi-family rehabilitation projects, Tenant Relocation Plans should be reviewed and modified for compliance with existing New York State guidance and laws, including a thorough cleaning of the unit each time before the resident re-enters. Owners should retain the updated plans. Any resident consent required for your project which was executed prior to March 27, 2020 should be re-executed.
- If, as a business operating in office space, I have agreed to an alternate arrangement with Building Management to perform and administer the daily health screening process, is my business still obligated to review the responses to every questionnaire completed by my employees and visitors?
Answer: No, the purpose of permitting businesses to arrange for Building Management to perform screenings is to facilitate compliance with screening requirements in an efficient manner that avoids duplication of efforts between Building Management and their tenants and eases the burden on businesses that may not have the capacity to perform such requirements. Additionally, the Interim Guidance generally prohibits the keeping of employee health data which would be violated if Building Management was obligated to collect and distribute completed screening questionnaires to Responsible Parties. A business that is a tenant in a commercial office building will be deemed to have complied with its obligation to review all employee and visitor responses if Building Management confirms for such business by the end of each working day that no visitor or employee failing the screening process was granted access to the building.
If Building Management has entered into an alternate arrangement with a tenant to perform screenings, is it required to make the responses to such questionnaires available to such tenants?
Answer: No, in order to support protection of private health information, Building Management should not store, keep or distribute answers to questionnaires. However, Building Management should provide confirmation by the end of each working day that no visitor or employee of such tenant was granted access to the building if such person failed the screening process.
Does an employer have to notify the local health department if an employee screens positive for COVID-19 symptoms?
Answer: No, while such employee should not be permitted access to the office and should be sent home with instructions to contact their healthcare provider for assessment and testing, employers do not need to contact the local health department unless such employee has actually tested positive for COVID-19.
The interim guidance for real estate services requires that residential property management entities conduct a daily health screening of visitors to a building. Does this requirement apply to visitors of building residents as well as visitors of the residential property management entity?
Answer: No. The requirement to conduct a daily health screening only applies to visitors of the residential property management entity.
What non-essential common areas should remain closed?
Answer: Non-essential common areas include, but are not limited to: gyms, fitness centers or health clubs, saunas or steam rooms, children’s play rooms, and game rooms.
Are delivery persons (e.g. food, packages, materials) considered “visitors” of the building for purposes of screening?
Answer: Yes. For purposes of screening, “visitors” include visitors to common areas or for purposes of delivery or maintenance, unless otherwise specified within the guidance document.
How should businesses whose Certificate of Occupancy does not list a building occupancy maximum comply with the maximum occupancy limits, as prescribed in the guidance?
Answer: For buildings that do not have the occupant load posted, the building owner can contact the local building department (as the local authority having jurisdiction), as they may have the occupant load listed in the building department’s records. The local building department may use this information when preparing for the required fire safety and property maintenance inspections. The maximum floor area allowances per occupant in the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code (the Uniform Code) can be found in Chapter 10 of the 2020 Fire Code of New York State (2020 FCNYS). The occupant load is typically calculated by the building official using Table 1004.5 of the 2020 FCNYS. In order to use Table 1004.5 of the 2020 FCNYS, you must know the use of the space so that you can determine what the occupant load factor is for such space. The occupant load factor differs for the various uses. For example, a motor vehicle showroom (which is classified as a Business Group B occupancy under Chapter 3 of the 2020 FCNYS), the code official would calculate the gross square footage and divide that number by 150 which is occupant load factor for business areas. For a motor vehicle showroom that is 10,000 square feet in area, the occupant load would be 66 people.
Should I consider other federal, state and local requirements (ADA, zoning, building, fire codes, etc.) as I expand my premises?
Answer: Yes, your expanded premises must still comply with all other relevant requirements under the law.
Where can I find guidance about the Cluster Action Initiative?
Answer: Please click here for guidance about the Cluster Action Initiative.
For any questions not listed here, please contact your Regional Control Room through the email addresses below.
Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren, Washington
Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga, Oswego
Genessee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming, Yates
Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, Westchester
Fulton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida, Otsego, Schoharie
New York City
Bronx, Kings, New York, Richmond, Queens
Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence
Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Delaware, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins
Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Niagara