NYS DOH Adopts Rule Regarding Annual TB Testing

HCP is very pleased to announce after long advocating that as published in the NYS Register, effective December 16, 2020, annual tuberculin testing is no longer a required element of annual healthcare personnel assessments. Initial TB testing for new hires remains in effect for all those with patient contact duties. 

The Department of Health (DOH/the Dept) proposed the rule – Reducing Annual Tuberculosis Testing of Health Care Workers –in January of this year.  In the discussion for this rule, it was recognized that the utility of annual TB testing had outlived its purpose in light of improved infection control, diagnostic testing ad treatment of persons with tuberculosis (TB) disease all reducing TB incidence in the US. An ongoing shortage of testing materials was also noted, adding to the decision to reduce testing which yields little benefit to the healthcare system.

Healthcare workers have a low rate of TB infection on baseline testing and very low rate of tuberculin skin test conversions.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with the National Tuberculosis Controllers Association, and occupational health and infection control associations updated recommendations in 2019 which encouraged assessment protocols and discouraged routine testing. 

HCP has long been advocating for the adoption of this rule. The elimination of annual TB testing will save our members precious time and financial resources – both in short supply, especially in this pandemic year. As recently as last week, the HCP Public Policy team discussed the rule with representatives from multiple NYS government offices. Its adoption is a real win for the home care industry!

Take note that while annual testing is no longer required, healthcare workers must continue to be assessed annually for TB risk and need for clinical follow-up.  Universal TB education, available from CDC, is also a yearly staff requirement. Remember that health assessments, suspended last spring due to the pandemic, are once again required and must be completed by year’s end. Elimination of TB testing will likely make this task easier to complete.

NYSDOH Emergency Rulemaking Enforcement of Social Distancing Measures

Also published in today’s edition of the State Register, as part of ongoing efforts to address the pandemic, Governor Cuomo has issued Executive Orders to implement measures aimed at limiting the spread and/or mitigating the impact of COVID-19 within the state. These regulations update previously filed emergency regulations consistent with the Governor’s Executive Order that gyms as well as restaurants, bars and other businesses serving alcohol close at 10:00 pm daily. The regulations also clarify that employees of food service establishments must wear a mask or face covering at all times while at their place of work. In light of this situation, these regulations are necessary to further implement social distancing measures to control the spread of communicable disease, in situations in which the Governor has declared a state disaster emergency. 

Face-Coverings

Face-coverings must be worn over the nose and mouth when in a public place or when unable to or not maintaining social distance by any person over the age of two. Face coverings are required in the following circumstances:

•         By any passenger or employee of a public or private transportation carrier or other for-hire vehicle. 
•         Any employee in the workplace shall be provided and wear a mask or face-covering when in direct contact with customers or members of the public, or when unable to maintain social distance. Employees of food service establishments must wear a mask or face-covering at all times while at their place of work. Businesses must provide, at their expense, such face coverings for their employees. 
•         Business operators and building owners shall deny admittance to any person who fails to comply with mask requirements, consistent with the federal American with Disabilities Act, New York State or New York City Human Rights Law. 

Non-essential gatherings

There shall be no non-essential gatherings of greater than ten individuals for any reason at any location in the state. There shall be no non-essential gatherings on sidewalks, streets or other public property within 100 feet of any food service establishment, or any business entity holding a liquor license from the State Liquor Authority. 

Business operations

All businesses and not-for-profit entities in the state shall utilize, to the maximum extent possible, any telecommuting or work from home procedures that they can safely utilize. If not included in the list below, a business may be deemed essential after requesting an opinion from the Empire State Development Corporation. Essential businesses include, but are not limited to, the following: 

•         Essential health care operations including but not limited to any entity or individual licensed, certified, registered or otherwise, research or laboratory services
•         Essential infrastructure including utilities, telecommunication, airports and transportation infrastructure, and hotels and places of accommodation
•         Essential manufacturing, including food processing and pharmaceuticals
•         Essential retail including grocery stores and pharmacies
•         Essential services including trash collection, mail, and shipping services; news media; banks and related financial institutions
•         Providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations 
•         Construction
•         Vendors of essential services necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operations of residences or other essential businesses; vendors that provide essential services or products, including logistics and technology support, child care and services needed to ensure the continuing operation of government agencies and provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public.
 
No establishment licensed by the State Liquor Authority for on-premises consumption of alcoholic beverages shall remain open between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., except for the service of food and non-alcoholic beverages for curbside take out or delivery. No gym or fitness center shall remain open between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. All indoor common portions of retail shopping malls in excess of 100,000 square feet of retail space available for lease shall remain closed. Any stores considered essential businesses located within such shopping malls, which have their own external entrances open to the public may remain open.

Penalties

A violation of any provision of this rule is subject to all civil and criminal penalties as provided for by law. Individuals or entities that violate this are subject to a maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation and shall be subject to a maximum fine of $15,000 for each violation. For purposes of civil penalties, each day that there is a non-essential gathering or that an entity operates in a manner inconsistent with this rule shall constitute a separate violation.