The New York Health and Essential Rights Act, known as the NY HERO Act, is designed to protect employees against exposure and disease during an airborne infectious disease outbreak through extensive workplace health and safety protections. This new law (S.1034-A/A.2681-B), was signed by the governor on May 5, 2021.

On September 6, 2021, Governor Hochul announced the designation of COVID-19 as an airborne infectious disease under the HERO Act. This designation required all employers to implement their Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plan.

Employees are protected from retaliation for exercising their rights under Section 218-b or reporting violations or concerns.

What does the Act require?

The Act requires that employers develop an Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plan for the purpose of protecting employees against exposure and disease during an outbreak. This plan formalizes the infection control measures that the University has implemented over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is the infectious agent and what disease can it cause?

COVID-19 is the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that emerged in December 2019.

What are the signs and symptoms of the disease?

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Visit the Testing & Tracing page for testing guidance. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

How does it spread?

Current evidence suggests that COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets and other small particles (aerosols) released into the air when an infected person breathes, talks, laughs, sings, coughs, or sneezes. People who are in close contact with an infected person can catch COVID-19 when those infectious droplets and aerosols get into their mouth, nose, or eyes. Larger droplets may fall to the ground in a few seconds, but aerosols can linger in the air and accumulate in indoor places, especially where many people are gathered for long periods of time and there is poor ventilation. This is why mask-wearing, hand hygiene, and physical distancing are essential to preventing COVID-19.

What is in the Plan?

During any airborne infectious disease outbreak, the following controls will be used:

If an employee develops symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the employee should not be in the workplace. Do not report to work if you do not feel well. Contact your supervisor to address staffing concerns and seek appropriate medical care.

If you are concerned you may have COVID-19, contact your primary care provider. If you do not have a primary care provider, consider evaluation through an urgent care center close to home; call first, do not walk in.

The plan includes a requirement for employees to continue to screen for symptoms before reporting to work. In support of this, the Daily Health Screening survey has been added back to the Colgate Portal as an optional tool for you to meet this requirement.

Employees are to self-monitor throughout their shift and report any new or emerging signs or symptoms of the infectious disease to their supervisor. An employee showing signs or symptoms of the infectious disease should leave the workplace and should contact a healthcare professional for guidance. 

Employees will wear face coverings throughout the workday when indoors and not alone in their offices. Face coverings and physical distancing should be used together whenever possible. The face covering must cover the nose and mouth, and fit snugly, but comfortably, against the face. Face coverings must be kept clean and sanitary and changed when soiled, contaminated, or damaged.

Physical distancing will be followed as much as feasible. Avoid unnecessary gatherings and maintain a distance of at least six feet (or twelve feet for increased exhalation activities).

To prevent the spread of infection, employees should wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to clean hands before and after:

  • Touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Touching your mask
  • Entering and leaving a public place
  • Touching an item or surface that may be frequently touched by other people, such as door handles, tables, gas pumps, shopping carts, or electronic cashier registers/screens

Normal housekeeping duties and schedules will continue to be followed. Employees are encouraged to continue to clean and sanitize their own work areas each day and between visitors, paying special attention to those objects that are touched repeatedly by multiple individuals (door handles, light switches, control buttons/levers, dials, levers, water faucet handles, computers, phones, or handrails). Supplies are still available through your department or office COVID supply coordinator.

Because infectious diseases can be spread by droplets expelled from the mouth and nose, employees should exercise appropriate respiratory etiquette by covering the nose and mouth when sneezing, coughing, or yawning.

Some employees, due to age, underlying health condition, or other factors, may be at increased risk of severe illness if infected. Please contact the Human Resources Department if you would like to request an accommodation. The accommodation process is interactive and will require medical documentation.