In Relation to Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Standards

Published on April 27th, 2021

The following memo was sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo following legislative passage of this bill.

Re:  A2681-B by Reyes, et al.
In relation to airborne infectious disease exposure prevention standards

To: The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor, State of New York

The tragic loss of life, the dramatic changes in our daily lives and the economic devastation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all – each and every person, organization, and employer.

The NYS Catholic Conference would strongly support a comprehensive and workable measure aimed at reducing the risk of contagion and thus saving lives, but the above-referenced legislation, which is now on your desk for consideration, is unfeasible and unfairly directed at only private sector employers, at potentially great cost. We urge you to work with the legislature on needed chapter amendments to address this and other issues.

Although this measure is explicitly intended to “protect the public and workforce” by establishing minimum requirements for preventing exposure to airborne infectious diseases in the workplace, the definition of employer explicitly excludes all public-sector employers. This means that the protections advanced by the legislation would not benefit any employee or member of the general public who routinely or occasionally occupies public buildings, including – but certainly not limited to – public schools and libraries, public hospitals and long-term care facilities, and any other state or local government building.

If enacted, the measure will set forth very costly requirements on only private-sector employers relating to employee health screenings; face coverings; PPE; physical barriers; hand hygiene stations; regular sanitizing of shared equipment and surfaces; air flow, exhaust, and ventilation systems; social distancing; as well as plans for compliance, enforcement, and reporting. Moreover, the measure appears to extend the enforcement of these standards outside any declared state of emergency, thus imposing on-going costs even when no public health emergency exists. The costs associated with this legislation, in conjunction with the on-going fiscal impact of COVID, will continue to threaten the solvency of more of our Catholic schools, charitable institutions, parishes, and facilities.

We urge you to work with the legislature to provide sufficient funding to support on-going compliance with these standards. Absent such funding, we urge that not-for-profit organizations be exempt and that the implementation and enforcement of the standards apply only during known public health threats and/or a declared state of emergency involving the risk of airborne contagion of disease. The New York State Catholic Conference appreciates the good intentions of this legislation, and we stand ready to work with you and the legislature to enact a more workable solution.