Everything You Need To Know About Yellow, Orange, & Red COVID Cluster Zones

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By: Elizabeth DiRienzo PHR, SHRM-CP, HR Advisor

Yellow, Orange, and Red Zones.

These are how parts of WNY, New York State, and America are being labeled as it pertains to COVID-19 outbreaks, confirmed cases, and deaths.

Breaking it down

Here are the restrictions for Yellow and Orange micro-clusters according to Gov. Cuomo’s office below:

Yellow Zone:

  • Houses of worship must operate at 50% capacity.
  • Mass gatherings are limited to 25 people indoors and outdoors.
  • Businesses can remain open.
  • Restaurants can offer indoor and outdoor dining but are only allowed to have a maximum of four people per table.
  • Schools remain open but must have weekly COVID-19 testing for students/teachers/staff for in-person settings.

Orange Zone:

  • Houses of worship must operate at 33% capacity or 25 people maximum.
  • Mass gatherings are limited to 10 people indoors and outdoors.
  • High-risk nonessential businesses must close (ie. gyms, salons, barber shops, spas, etc.)
  • Restaurants can only offer outdoor dining and takeout. There is a four-person maximum per table for outdoor dining.
  • Schools are closed and shift to remote learning. Schools can “test” out of this designation and reopen if they test 100% of their students/teachers/staff before reopening, and then test 25% of them on a weekly basis.

Red Zone:

  • Houses of worship operate at 25% capacity or 10 people maximum.
  • Mass gatherings are prohibited.
  • Only essential business can be open.
  • Restaurants can only offer takeout.
  • Schools are closed and shift to remote learning.

Emergency Paid Sick leave (EPSL) and Emergency Paid Family Leave (EPFMLA)

As a reminder, employees may be eligible for Emergency Paid Sick leave (EPSL) and Emergency Paid Family Leave (EPFMLA) due to COVID-19 related situations. Below is a recap of the two leaves:

Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL)

  • Eligibility: All Employees
  • Circumstances: Employees who can’t work or telework due to diagnosis, treatment, quarantine, or childcare/family care needs related to COVID.
  • Benefits: 2 weeks (up to 80 hours, which is pro-rated for part-time employees) of paid leave. 100% pay* for quarantine and illness related leave, 2/3 pay for childcare leave.
  • Important Notes: If taken for purposes other than child/family care, this leave does NOT count toward an employee’s total 12-week FMLA eligibility. Thus, an employee can take 2 weeks of EPSL leave for non-child/family care reasons AND ALSO take an additional 12 weeks of FMLA for EPFMLA or other “normal” FMLA qualifying reasons, totaling 14 weeks of leave. Note, in this case, the first 2 weeks of the Emergency FMLA would be unpaid.

Emergency Paid Family Leave (EPFMLA)

  • Eligibility: Employees who have worked for you 30 days or greater.
  • Circumstances: Employees who are unable to work or telework because of a need to care for their child (under 18) when their child’s school or place of care is closed, or the childcare provider in unavailable due to COVID.
  • Benefits: The first 2 weeks are “unpaid” but may be paid (2/3 pay) under the EPSL (above) if the employee hasn’t yet used the 2-week EPSL paid benefit for another reason previously (quarantine, etc.). Once this 2-week period has ended, employees are then eligible for 10 weeks of paid leave at 2/3 their normal pay*.
  • Important Notes: This leave can be taken intermittently. An employee voluntarily keeping their kids from going to school is not eligible for this leave.

NYS Sick Leave Law

  • Eligibility: Standard employee eligibility requirements for DBL and PFL apply.
  • Circumstances: Employees subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation issued by NYS or the DOH. Employees are not covered if they: Are asymptomatic or have not been medically diagnosed and who are able to work remotely; or Traveled for non-business reasons to a country for which the CDC issued a Level 2 or 3 health notice, despite being notified of the health notice prior to travel.
  • Benefits vary based on employer size and net income:
    — 10 or fewer employees as of January 1, 2020 and not more than $1 million net income: Unpaid sick leave until the end of the quarantine or isolation order.
    — 10 or fewer employees with a net income of greater than $1 million OR between 11 and 99 employees as of January 1, 2020: 5 days of paid sick leave and unpaid leave until the end of the quarantine or isolation order.
    — 100 or more employees as of January 1, 2020: 14 days of paid sick leave during the quarantine or isolation order.
  • Important Notes: Sick leave must be provided in addition to any other employer-provided sick leave, including any leave required by the New York City or Westchester paid sick leave laws. If New York provides benefits in excess of the federal benefits, then the employee may receive the federal leave benefits plus the New York leave benefits in an amount equal to the difference between the state and federal benefits.

*Benefits are subject to financial limits as indicated by the law.

This post was written by Elizabeth DiRienzo, HR Adviser at EBC HR and Payroll Solutions. EBC is a locally owned, full-fledged human capital management firm located in downtown Buffalo. EBC provides payroll, technology, and customized Human Resource consulting services to small to medium sized businesses across WNY throughout all industries. Through a combination of administrative services, technology solutions, and personalized consulting on HR and Safety matters, EBC helps local businesses maximize the value of their number one resource and asset- human capital.

Learn more about EBC HR via their information below:

Email: JDitondo@EbcInc.net

Website: EBCInc.net

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Step Out Buffalo Business

Step Out Buffalo Business is a business focused publication featuring tips and tricks for entrepreneurs and small business people in Buffalo & Western New York. We write what we know and when we don't know, we ask an expert in the field. We've gained our knowledge through experience growing businesses in various industries.

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