Dr. Chid Iloabachie, an emergecy medicine physician with Northwell Health.

Dr. Chid Iloabachie, an emergecy medicine physician with Northwell Health. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Long Island officials appear to be taking a relatively lax approach to the state's new COVID-19 mandate, but businesses are still better off abiding by the rules, health and legal experts said.

Beginning Monday, supermarkets, retailers and other establishments were required to limit entrance to those who are fully vaccinated — or to require masks of all occupants, including those who are vaccinated. Incoming Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said his administration wouldn't enforce the mandate, and his counterpart in Suffolk County, Steve Bellone, is focusing on implementing the measure through "education."

But businesses that buck the state may still be at risk of COVID-19 transmission and of litigation, experts said Wednesday during a Newsday Live webinar co-sponsored by the Long Island Association, a regional business organization. Here's how the panelists — restaurateur Joseph DeNicola, Dr. Chid Iloabachie of Northwell Health and Domenique Camacho Moran, a partner at the law firm Farrell Fritz — answered questions about the new policy:

Q: My office is not open to the public. Does the mandate apply?

The state has issued FAQs that indicate the mandate is in effect at all locations except private residences, Moran said. This includes factories, offices, retail spaces and houses of worship.

Q: If the government isn't enforcing the mandate, do businesses really need to comply?

Employers are facing lawsuits from workers who claim they contracted COVID-19 on the job, according to Moran. She said businesses should abide by the governor's order to reduce this type of risk.

Domenique Camacho Moran, a partner at Farrell Fritz in Uniondale.

Domenique Camacho Moran, a partner at Farrell Fritz in Uniondale. Credit: Jim Lennon Photography/Farrell Fritz

"Just because there's not going to be this penalty under the mandate doesn't mean there's not a legal consequence for a failure to comply," Moran said.

Q: What if my employees are resistant? I can't afford to lose workers in this labor market.

Stress the science behind the mandate, Iloabachie said. Having staff fully vaccinated and wearing masks offers everyone the best protection available, he said. Iloabachie noted that not taking precautions can cause bigger problems down the road.

"We certainly know that there are costs to the labor market when people have to be out because they’re ill or when people have to be out because they’re taking care of ill family members," he said.

Q: What if my staff refuses to comply?

Companies can start by sending them home without pay, which may motivate them to comply, Moran said. If that doesn't work, businesses can terminate workers. Moran said companies can challenge any applications for unemployment benefits by noting the employees were terminated for gross misconduct because they didn't abide by the COVID-19 policy.

Q: How can I convince customers to follow the mandate without offending anyone?

Addressing any concerns at establishment entrances is key, said DeNicola, who requires masks unless someone is sitting down and eating or drinking at his eight restaurants in Suffolk County.

The staff hands customers masks if they walk in without one, he said. His restaurants also have signs at the entrance and in bathrooms reminding people of the policy.

"Most people — I'd say 99% of them cooperate," DeNicola said. "They understand it's not a rule that we made."

NCC faculty suing school … MacArthur new flights … Going for the gold Credit: Newsday

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NCC faculty suing school … MacArthur new flights … Going for the gold Credit: Newsday

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