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> COVID19 Support for Workplaces

2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Support for Workplaces


As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to present new challenges, employers and organizations are looking for guidance on operating safely day-to-day. On this page the Tompkins County Health Department will provide updated information, FAQs, and local resources to support that goal.


NYS HERO Act

The New York Health and Essential Rights Act (NY HERO Act, 5/5/21) mandates extensive new workplace health and safety protections to protect employees against exposure and disease during a future airborne infectious disease outbreak. 

COVID-19 was added as an airborne infectious disease under the NY HERO Act on September 6, meaning all employers are required to implement workplace safety plans. These plans go into effect when an airborne disease is designated by the NYS Department of Health (DOH) as a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health.

Templates for industry-specific plans were developed by the NYS Department of Labor (DOL) and the NYS DOH. Employers can chose to adopt the applicable template or establish an alternative plan that meets or exceeds the standard’s minimum requirements. Tompkins County does not have any additional county-specific requirements that must be included in the plans.


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County Health Advisory

The Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) issued a health advisory on July 30, 2021. The advisory addresses mask-wearing for all residents, regardless of vaccination status. The advisory was posted again on August 20, 2021. Additional guidance was posted on September 1, 2021.

  • This advisory includes no mandates or requirements beyond the current state mandate that unvaccinated individuals wear a mask while indoors and around others. 
  • This advisory is not meant to directly alter any business operations or supersede previous New York State guidance, such as patrons removing masks while seated at a restaurant or when workers are in their own offices or distanced from other individuals.
  • TCHD issued the July 30 advisory when the number of local new positive cases reached the CDC’s threshold of “substantial spread” (total 50 cases/100,000 residents in 7 days). The advisory was posted August 20 when the community transmission rate crossed 100, moving it to the "high spread" level. In absence of further New York State guidance, and with the increase in local cases, TCHD decided to encourage mask-wearing by members of the public.
  • Tompkins County is not enforcing the guidance in this advisory. It is incumbent on each resident, business, and organization to take actions that they feel appropriate based on the information provided.
Directives for Tompkins County government employees.
  • All Tompkins County employees are required to wear a mask at work, “…when a six (6) foot separation between individuals cannot be guaranteed […] in order to keep the workplace safe for employees and to provide direct and clear guidance.” (Tompkins County COVID-19 Directive #2.3, updated 8/9/2021)
  • All visitors to county buildings are required to wear face masks when in a county building. (Tompkins County COVID-19 Directive #5.1, updated 8/9/2021)
  • All Tompkins County employees will be required to be vaccinated, or be tested periodically, beginning October 1, 2021. The requirement was established through a resolution approved by the Tompkins County legislature at its meeting on August 10, 2021. Procedural details are being developed by County administration.

Key points for New York State’s June 15, 2021 guidance.
  • Businesses are free to choose to lift all or some restrictions, continue to adhere to the State’s archived guidance, or implement other health precautions for their employees and patrons.
  • Unvaccinated individuals must wear a mask when around others.
  • Businesses are authorized to require masks and six feet of social distancing for employees and patrons within their establishments, regardless of vaccination status.
  • Any mask requirements that businesses choose to implement must adhere to applicable federal and state laws and regulations, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Review all details at the Environmental Health Guidance page.

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NYS Mask Mandate (9/15/21)

Applies only to programs and services licensed, regulated, certified or operated by NYS. Masks required for all staff, visitors, and residents where applicable regardless of vaccination status in the following settings:

  • State-Regulated Child Care Facilities for Children Ages Two and Up, All Staff and Visitors
  • Residential Congregate Programs Operated, Licensed, Certified or Approved by the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS)
  • Programs and Facilities Licensed or Registered by Office of Mental Health (OMH), Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS), Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), and Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA)

Source: Governor's website


K-12 Schools

Quick links of interest. See also PreK-12 Contact Tracing and Close Contacts


Best Practices

The following may be best practices for businesses related to this advisory and the current state of the pandemic. Please note that at this time these are not requirements or mandates:

  • MASKS: Encourage or require mask-wearing by employees and patrons regardless of vaccination status.
  • VACCINE: Encourage or require your employees and/or patrons to get vaccinated. Vaccines continue to provide the most effective protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.
    • Information on local vaccine clinics: click here.
    • Request a pop-up clinic for your workplace or group: click here.
    • Information on New York State’s Vaccine Excelsior Pass, click here.
  • TESTING: Employees should get tested for COVID-19 if they have oncoming symptoms or have been in contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Questions or concerns, contact: tceh@tompkins-co.org or (607) 274-6688.

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