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DOH Updates Return to Work Guidance Related to Travel and Exposure

The Department of Health (DOH) issued new guidance last week regarding health care personnel (HCP) return to work after COVID-19 exposure or travel to non-contiguous states. It does not apply to HCP who are diagnosed with COVID-19. This guidance clarifies and supersedes the Dec. 26th guidance and offers steps for health care entities with current or imminent staffing shortages that threaten essential patient services.

Furlough After Exposure: Like the Dec. 26th guidance on this topic, this guidance continues to require asymptomatic staff who have been exposed to COVID-19 to:

  • Furlough for 14 days if they work in a nursing home, Enhanced Assisted Living Residence (EALR), or Assisted Living Program (ALP);
  • Furlough for 10 days if they work in any other health care setting.

Staff in any setting may be released from quarantine after 10 days but must be furloughed in accordance with the above time frames.

Notably, the new guidance refers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Interim Risk Assessment and Work Restrictions for HCP with Potential Exposure recommendations for purposes of defining an exposure in a health care setting.

Return After Travel: The updated guidance makes a change in the return to work requirements for HCP returning from travel. Under the new guidance, the requirements for nursing home and adult care facility (ACF) staff are aligned with the guidance for other HCP. Asymptomatic staff who have traveled to a non-contiguous state or a country with CDC Level 2 or higher risk assessment may return to work upon their arrival in New York State but must receive a diagnostic test within 24 hours arrival in New York State and on the fourth day after return. We are getting some confusing messages about when the HCP is eligible to return to work and are working to clarify.

Return to Work Waiver: Providers with actual or anticipated staffing shortages may seek the approval of the Commissioner to allow exposed HCP to return to work early. These providers must complete a HCP Return to Work Waiver and upload the signed CEO attestation documenting that the facility has implemented or attempted to implement staffing mitigation strategies and is experiencing a current or imminent staffing shortage.

If the waiver is approved, asymptomatic HCP who have been exposed to COVID-19 within the past 10 days may return to work, provided they have a negative test (PCR or antigen) to return to work after an exposure and are subsequently tested every two to three days after the first test until Day 10 after exposure. Other return to work conditions continue to be required.

The guidance also provides details on the Department’s Surge and Flex Operations Center for all provider types if they are concerned about staffing, patient care capacity, or other triage concerns. The Surge and Flex Operations Center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 917-909-2676.