On April 17, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.19 invoking new powers from a law passed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic to temporarily suspend or modify laws necessary to assist or aid in coping with a declared State disaster emergency. On March 3, 2020, the Governor signed into law legislation that expanded his authority to temporarily suspend, modify, or issue directives in response to a declared State disaster emergency. That legislation also accompanied a $40 million appropriation to the Governor to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Labor Law was modified and suspended to delay the issuing of a notice required from businesses that receive federal Paycheck Protection Program funding who then subsequently rehire employees, as long as the business provided a required notice when it initially laid-off employees.
The Governor directed the Department of Health to establish a single, statewide coordinated testing prioritization process and to require laboratories in the state to complete COVID-19 diagnostic testing in accordance with that process. Laboratories are not permitted to reserve testing capabilities for any private or public entity in a manner that would impede the Department’s ability to prioritize and coordinate COVID-19 testing. Violators may be subject to a civil penalty of $10,000 or three times the value of testing. The Commissioner may revoke the operating certificate or license of any laboratories in violation of this directive.
The Governor modified a previous directive requiring skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes, and adult care facilities to notify family members and next of kin within 24 hours if a resident tests positive or dies from COVID-19. The Governor added to the directive a non-compliance penalty of $2,000 per violation per day. Subsequent violations would be considered a violation under section 12-b of the Public Health Law.
Local governments or local departments of health are directed to not take any actions that could affect public health without consulting the Department of Health. Local government officials are directed to not take any action that could impede or conflict with any other local government action, or state action with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the newly enacted law, the Governor has the power to suspend, modify, or issue directives during a declared emergency for 30 days which may be extended for an unlimited number of 30 day periods with consent of the legislature after each subsequent period. Unless the Governor elects to extend the suspension or directives, they will expire on May 17, 2020.