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Enforcing HERO act will protect workers from COVID-19, Gov. Hochul says

Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday that New York

Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday that New York will begin enforcing a new state law crafted to protect employees in the workplace from the coronavirus. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Monday that New York has designated COVID-19 an airborne infectious disease, enabling the state to enforce recently adopted workplace safety standards to control the virus’ spread.

The New York Health and Essential Rights, or HERO Act, was signed by former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in May. It requires all employers to implement safety plans in the workplace as protection against an airborne infectious disease. The state’s health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, classified COVID-19 as such Monday.

"While we continue to increase our vaccination numbers, the fight against the Delta variant is not over, and we have to do everything we can to protect our workers," Hochul said in a news release. "This designation will ensure protections are in place to keep our workers safe and support our efforts to combat the virus and promote health and safety."

The announcement came a day after 26 people in New York died of COVID-19, including six in Suffolk and one in Nassau, officials said.

Employers can adopt the model safety plan crafted by the state or develop their own in compliance with state standards. The HERO Act also requires employers with at least 10 workers to meet a Nov. 1 deadline for establishing a joint labor-management workplace safety committee.

"I'm very thankful Governor Hochul has acted quickly to save lives and protect workers by implementing the New York HERO Act," said Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), the bill’s sponsor, in a statement. "It took too long to effectuate and too many workers have already sacrificed their health for our community's benefit, but we can finally recognize their efforts by giving workers the tools to protect themselves while on the job."

Maritza Silva-Farrell, executive director of ALIGN, a Manhattan-based labor advocacy group, said: "This is how we support the essential workers who contribute so much to our state."

Additional information on the various industry-specific requirements are listed on the state Department of Labor’s website.

Also Monday, Hochul’s office said 554 more Long Islanders tested positive for the virus — 239 in Nassau and 315 in Suffolk. The Island’s positivity rate, averaged over seven days, was 4.26% on Sunday, down from 4.31% Saturday and slightly up from 4.23% Friday.

The number of vaccines administered on Long Island in the past 24 hours rose by 4,790, bringing the total number of people with at least one dose Islandwide to 1,774,301, officials said.

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