It’s the question on everyone’s mind, it seems.

And the answer is:  It depends (how’s that for a lawyerly answer?).

In general, the period to isolate and quarantine has been reduced from 10 days to 5 days, but there are some important exceptions.

For isolation and quarantine of the general population, individuals should isolate for 5 days, where day 0 is the day of symptom onset or, if asymptomatic, the day of collection of the first positive specimen. If asymptomatic at the end of 5 days or if symptoms are resolving, isolation ends, and the individual simply should wear a well-fitting mask while around others for an additional 5 days.

Individuals who are moderately to severely immunocompromised and individuals not able to wear a well-fitting mask should continue to follow standard (i.e., not shortened) isolation guidance.

If an employee who’s been exposed to COVID-19 is fully vaccinated and boosted (with the booster at least 2 weeks before the first date of exposure) or they aren’t yet eligible for a booster, no quarantine is required but these individuals should wear a well-fitting mask while around others for 10 days after the last date of exposure. If possible, they should test at day 5 with either a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT a/k/a PCR) or antigen test.  If symptoms appear, they obviously should quarantine and seek testing. In this situation, quarantine would end when the test is negative.

Healthcare facilities must follow specific guidance (see below) and congregate care settings – including corrections, shelters, childcare, group homes, and other residential care settings – should follow the guidance issued by the Erie County Department of Health.

Am I still required to pay employees for COVID-19 quarantine or isolation?  Regardless of what industry you’re in, you MUST still comply with the New York COVID-19 Sick Leave Law which provides protected time off for individuals subject to a lawful isolation or quarantine order. Depending on the size of your business, you may be required to provide up to 14 days of paid COVID-19 Sick Leave to your employee. This is in addition to your obligations under New York’s Paid Sick Leave Law, which applies to illnesses, health care, and safety-related leaves.

My employee didn’t provide me with an order of isolation or quarantine; instead they gave me an affirmation document.  Do I still need to provide them with COVID-19 sick leave?  Yes.  Due to a lack of resources, the Erie County Department of Health – and many other county health departments – have announced that they’re no longer able to provide Orders of Isolation or Quarantine.  Instead, they’ve indicated that an Affirmation of Isolation or Affirmation of Quarantine can be used “as if it was an individual Order for Isolation issued by the [Erie] County Commissioner of Health.” Many forms on the county health department’s website currently are being updated, including the Affirmation forms, however, they should be available online soon.

My business is in healthcare, and we are short staffed right now.  I have several employees who are quarantined or isolating.  Can I make them return to work now?  New York State recently updated its guidance regarding return-to-work protocols for health care workers who’ve been infected or exposed to COVID-19.  Exactly how long a healthcare worker should remain out of work is dependent on:

  • whether the healthcare facility is a nursing home,
  • what the staffing levels of the facility are at the time of the healthcare worker’s illness,
  • whether the healthcare worker is fully vaccinated,
  • whether the healthcare worker is moderately or severely immunocompromised, and
  • whether the healthcare worker has been exposed or infected.

The information gathered by assessing these five factors will determine whether the facility should follow New York State Department of Health guidelines or Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

The Coppola Firm’s team of lawyers are here to help navigate these thorny employment-related challenges. Call us for the personal attention you deserve.