New York State, having experienced the world’s biggest and deadliest coronavirus outbreak, remains far behind most other states in coming out of lockdown. But for much of the state, the reopening is finally underway.
We’ve compiled information you need to know for a successful – and healthy – return to business in New York.
When will New York reopen?
New York City plans to begin phase 1 on June 8th Detailed information can be found on the official New York website.
What are New York's reopening stages?
Phase 1 - minimal reopening: states and cities that meet three criteria for the first time could proceed to the initial reopening. All high-risk individuals should still be shelter-in-place, visits to senior care are not recommended, telework, and strict social distancing are still enforced. Crowd size is limited to 10 people.
Phase 2 - reopen with physical distancing: if there is no evidence of a rebound, cities could proceed to phase 2 and relax stay at home orders. In this phase, most businesses could start to operate again with strict physical distancing protocols. Crowd size is limited to 50 people.
Phase 3 - resume to normal: if there is no evidence of a rebound for the third time, vulnerable individuals could resume public interactions, and businesses could restore to a normal level of staffing.
Employers reopening priorities
Reopening your small business probably won’t be as easy as switching on the lights and welcoming employees back to the office. HR experts expect employers and employees to experience a new environment, perhaps long term, rather than business as usual once the pandemic lessens.
Not only will small business owners need to consider measures to ensure the health and safety of their returning workforces—phased-in returns to the workplace and physical distancing, for instance—they also may encounter greater employee demand for flexible hours, remote-work arrangements, and generous paid sick leave as part of the new normal.
What to consider when deciding to reopen
Employers should stay on top of the news so they will be prepared and compliant when allowed to reopen. If you’re operating a small business in NY, here are details to consider.
According to the White House's plan for opening up America post Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, states and regions must satisfy three criteria before proceeding to the “Unpause” phase:
- Consecutive decline of COVID-like illnesses: there must be a downward trajectory of flu-like AND COVID-like illnesses within a consecutive 14 days period, these are cases that have similar symptoms to COVID-19 but are not tested and confirmed by a lab test. This means that the “curve” has to go down consistently before we could decide that the risk for a second peak is unlikely.
- Consecutive decline of confirmed COVID-19 cases: there must be a downward trajectory of documented Coronavirus COVID-19 cases OR a downward trend of people tested positive for COVID-19 in a period of 14 days.
- Hospital capacity and readiness: hospitals must be able to treat all patients without having to utilize crisis mode AND must have a robust testing program in place to test health workers for COVID-19, including the use of antibody (blood) test.
Actions to take when reopening your NY business
Here are steps to consider when opening your business in New York:
1. Re-think your budget
Budgeting takes into consideration what you spend and what you earn. If your income has lessened because of the coronavirus business shutdown, you simply can’t continue to budget your money the same way. Determine where you can cut back or even eliminate expenses. If you’re able to operate effectively remotely, giving up a rent payment can offer financial relief.
2. Explore outside funding
3. Negotiate with vendors and suppliers
There are vendors and suppliers who might be easier to negotiate with if your cash flow is impacted. It’s a good idea to tackle the low-hanging fruit first before you spend time and energy on businesses that might make negotiations difficult.
- Direct service providers
- Corporations or large companies
- Financial institutions (banks, credit unions, etc.)
- Large contracts
- Small Businesses
- Private landlords
- Small contracts
For a complete guide on negotiations in light of the pandemic, visit the SmartBiz Small Business Blog: How To Negotiate With Lenders and Suppliers During COVID-19.
4. Put office safety measures in place
Create your Injury and Illness Prevention Program. The IIPP is a basic written workplace safety program. Every employer in the State of NY is required by law to develop and implement an effective IIPP. OSHA has created an e-tool to assist employers create theirs. That e-tool can be found here. On-site visits, telephone support, publications, and educational outreach are also available.
You should also put testing for symptoms of the virus in place. Testing should be administered in the least invasive way possible, like utilizing temperature guns or forehead temperatures. If a medical professional or person with medical training is available, have them administer the temperatures. If somebody with medical training is not available or onsite, the company should consider whether managers within the organization may be trained to administer and read whatever testing mechanism the company uses. Finally, testing should be administered based on legitimate and nondiscriminatory business needs.
OSHA is always adding and updating workplace safety publications to their website to help employers. Everything from construction safety, to ergonomics and bloodborne pathogens is covered on the OSHA website.
5. Continue customer communication
Whatever you decide to do during the coronavirus crisis, don't stop communicating with customers. Share via email, social media messaging, and other channels how you are staying in operation and what your plans are if you have to temporarily close. Share with customers what you are doing during the quarantine. Let people know as soon as you plan to open again. Your customers want to support you, and communication can help them keep your business in mind.
6. Keep open communication with employees
This is a very stressful time for American workers. Being in the dark about their employment status can cause additional distress. Be sure to be open and honest with your employees about the current business situation and your plans for opening up. Let them know the steps you are taking to keep your business going after the pandemic.
7. Establish anonymous reporting
To maintain a safe work environment for on-site employees and customers, companies should create an anonymous complaint channel for employees and customers to report unsafe practices or violations of protocol during this COVID-19 period.
New York State Department of Health has established a website and telephone number that provide the latest, most comprehensive information about the State’s response to the virus.
- NYS DOH Coronavirus Hotline: 1-888-364-3065 (fully language accessible)
- NYS DOH Coronavirus Website
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce
- Small Business Administration
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- NYS Department of Labor
- NYS Department of Financial Services
The facts, laws, and regulations regarding COVID-19 in New York are developing rapidly. Since the date of publication, there may be new or additional information not referenced in this advisory. Please consult with your legal counsel for guidance.