CDC Shortens COVID-19 Isolation Guidelines; Potential Impact on New York COVID-19 Paid Leave

Jai HookerPaid Sick Leave Updates

CDC Shortens COVID-19 Isolation Guidelines; Potential Impact on New York COVID-19 Paid Leave

Ian M. Capell, Marlin Duro-Martinez, Bernard Olshansky, and Joshua D. Seidman

Seyfarth Shaw

What You Need to Know:

  • On March 1, 2024, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) scaled back its guidance regarding COVID-19, most notably ending its recommendation of a five-day quarantine following a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
  • New York State employers should monitor the New York Department of Health (NYSDOH) website, for any potential updates to its COVID-19 isolation guidance in light of the new CDC recommendations. Updates to the NYSDOH COVID-19 guidance may impact employee entitlement to COVID-19 paid sick leave under the New York State COVID-19 Emergency Leave Law.

Last week the CDC announced it would scale back its remaining guidance regarding COVID-19, including an official end to the recommendation of a five-day isolation period following a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. This is the first time in two years that the agency has updated its COVID-19 isolation guidelines.

The CDC’s guidelines and recommendations shift focus from targeting COVID-19 specifically and instead recommend precautions for influenza and other respiratory syncytial viruses, in addition to COVID-19. In its new guidance, the CDC removed its recommendation that employees who test positive for COVID-19 isolate for five days following their diagnosis before returning to work. Instead, the CDC now generally recommends returning to normal activities only 24 hours after symptoms have improved. If employees had a fever, they may return to normal activities 24 hours after the fever is gone without fever-reducing medication. However, once returning to normal activities, the CDC still recommends taking precautions over the next five days, including wearing a mask and/or maintaining a proper distance from others.

These changes are particularly noteworthy for employers in New York State because, on Jan. 4, 2022, the NYSDOH adopted the CDC’s COVID-19 isolation and quarantine recommendations in its own guidance for the general population. Based on the CDC guidance at that time, the NYSDOH recommended five days of isolation for most employees diagnosed with COVID-19, although additional time was recommended for some employees depending on the severity of the illness.

The NYSDOH guidance directly impacts leave under the New York State COVID-19 Emergency Leave law, which was signed into law in March 2020 and remains active and in effect. This is because employees are entitled to New York COVID-19 emergency leave only if they are subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation issued by the state of New York, the department of health, local board of health, or any governmental entity duly authorized to issue such order due to COVID-19. Therefore, any change to the NYSDOH guidance on COVID-19 isolation can impact employee entitlement to New York COVID-19 emergency leave.

The NYSDOH has not yet revised its guidance to match the recent updates from the CDC. In its January 2022 guidance, however, the NYSDOH stated that “as formal CDC guidance becomes available, NYSDOH will evaluate and update State guidance accordingly.” Therefore, employers should keep an eye on the NYSDOH, which could update its recommendations to conform with those of the CDC and impact employee entitlement to NY COVID-19 leave.

In addition to the potential changes to the NYSDOH guidance, the New York State COVID-19 Emergency Leave law mandate may also be impacted if the proposed New York State budget bill passes. Specifically, in January 2024, the New York State Legislature and Governor Hochul proposed a sunset of the State’s COVID-19 Emergency Leave law, effective July 31, 2024. Such a sunset would be part of a state budget measure, which is due on April 1, 2024.

New York employers have been subject to several COVID-19-specific and general paid sick leave laws, including:

  1. New York State COVID-19 Emergency Leave Law
  2. New York State Paid Sick Leave Law
  3. New York City Earned Safe and Sick Time Act. Employers in Westchester County, New York are subject to the local safe time mandate.
  4. New York State’s separate COVID-19 vaccine paid leave mandate expired on Dec. 31, 2023.

***This article originally appeared on the Seyfarth Shaw “If Pain, Yes Gain” legal update series and was reposted on the DMEC website with their permission.***