Updates related to employment, utilities, education, testing capacity, and more, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has officially approved New York State to authorize 28 labs to test for novel coronavirus. This will increase capacity from 3,000 to about 6,000 tests per day in the coming week.

The Governor announced that the State Department of Financial Services will require insurance companies to waive co-pays for telehealth visits. Public health officials continue to urge individuals who are experiencing symptoms and/or have been in close contact with a person known to have the virus to call their doctor before visiting their doctor’s office. This will help protect other patients and medical staff from unnecessary exposure.

The Governor announced that the state will waive the 7-day waiting period to qualify for unemployment for individuals who have been laid off for COVID-19 related reasons.

The Governor has announced that utility companies are barred from cutting off service, including power and heat, to customers affected by COVID-19 related illness or layoffs.

The Governor issued an Executive Order to eliminate the aid penalty for schools directed to close by state or local officials or those closed under a state or local declaration of emergency that do not meet 180-day requirements if they are unable to make up school days. (For information on school closings, see “County Updates” section, below.)

Urging Federal Action to Support College Towns During College Closures
In many areas across our region, colleges and universities are the primary employer for residents and a driver of economic activity for small businesses. In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, educational institutions across New York State have begun to transition to virtual learning to protect public health. I have joined my Senate colleagues in urging our Federal representatives to consider financial mitigation measures that will support our college towns and ensure that workers and small businesses are protected at this difficult time.

Free Access to Spectrum Broadband and Wi-Fi to K-12 and College Students
According to a press release shared with my office by Charter Communications
the company plans to provide free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription (where service is available), at any service level up to 100 Mbps. The company will also open up Charter WiFi Hotspots for public use. These services are expected to begin on Monday, March 16, 2020, and can be requested by calling 1-844-488-8395. 

ORANGE COUNTY has declared a state of emergency, and County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus has provided a COVID-19 update,  as well as a recommendation that all public and private schools close for a two-week period, beginning Monday, March 16, 2020.

Updates from the Orange County Department of Health can be accessed HERE

This is a challenging time, and I encourage you to reach out to my office at metzger@nysenate.gov or (845) 344-3311 if we can be of assistance.