On August 2, 2022, the New York State Department of Health (the “Department”) issued revised guidance regarding daily health screenings and related policies for home care staff. Specifically, the new guidance reduces the number of daily health screenings required for home care staff from two to one and reiterates the obligation to maintain a policy regarding COVID-19 symptom monitoring and reporting.
During the height of the pandemic, the Department issued Home Care Agency Dear Administrator Letter DHCBS 20-08 Updated, dated March 22, 2020, requiring agencies to, among other things, ensure staff were screened upon arrival at work and check their temperature for fever twice per day. Since “arrival at work” for home care workers typically means the patient’s home, the Department recommended that agencies utilize the CDC’s screening guidance for health care personnel. On August 2, 2022, the Department issued Dear Administrator Letter DHCBS 22-13, which expressly supersedes the previous March 22, 2020 guidance. The revised guidance reduces the screening requirement for fevers to once daily upon arriving at work. It also reiterates the requirement that agencies must maintain policies and plans regarding screening and self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms.
Specifically, the policy must: (1) require that staff be contacted by the agency on a daily basis, before the start of their shift, to confirm that the employee is self-monitoring and symptom-free; (2) require staff to contact the agency if they develop symptoms during their shift and immediately cease providing services to the patient; and (3) advise and refer staff to medical attention when they exhibit fever and/or respiratory symptoms of COVID-19.
As many health care employers have learned since the COVID-19 pandemic began over two years ago, the state of the law and guidance surrounding COVID-19, health screenings, vaccines, quarantines, and home care staff change frequently. All New York home care agencies are encouraged to consult knowledgeable counsel regarding employer obligations to comply with the Department’s evolving guidance as well as to discuss other COVID-19-related issues, rules, and requirements.