Frequently Asked Questions

Vaccine and Testing Questions

Are COVID-19 tests available in the Rochester area? How can you get tested? How long does it take to get results?

Yes, testing is available now in Rochester and the surrounding areas for anyone who needs one. Visit New York State’s COVID screening website here and fill out the required information. A state representative will call you to schedule an appointment at the nearest testing center. The test consists of a simple inner-nose swab. Results are available privately online a few days after testing. As an additional option: WellNow urgent care locations are now open for walk-in molecular and antibody testing for those showing symptoms of COVID-19. Testing is free for those who have insurance under the CARES Act. For those who are paying out-of-pocket, testing runs $100-$150. Visit their website here for more info.

Who should be tested for COVID-19?

The New York State Department of Health recommends a COVID-19 test for any individual who:

  • Is symptomatic or has a history of symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g. fever, cough, and/or trouble breathing), particularly if the individual is 70 years of age or older, the individual has a compromised immune system, or the individual has an underlying health condition; or
  • Has had close (i.e. within six feet) or proximate contact with a person known to be positive with COVID-19; or
  • Is subject to a precautionary or mandatory quarantine; or
  • Is employed as a health care worker, first responder, or other essential worker who directly interacts with the public while working; or
  • Presents with a case where the facts and circumstances – as determined by the treating clinician in consultation with state or local department of health officials – warrant testing; or
  • Is included under other criteria set by the NYS Dept. of Health based on an individual's geographic place of residence, occupation, or other factors that the Department may deem relevant for COVID-19 testing purposes; or
  • Would return to the workplace in Phase 1.

Do I need to screen staff for COVID-19? What do screenings involve? Can staff refuse to take these screenings before starting work shifts?

Employers are required by the State of New York to put a health screening process in place and screen before employees begin work each day. These screenings can include a health questionnaire and a temperature scan. Screening questionnaires used by public organizations include questions such as:

  1. Do you have any of these symptoms currently? (check all that apply):
    • Fever greater than 100 degrees
    • Dry cough
    • Shortness of breath
    • Sore throat
    • Runny nose
    • None of the above
    • Other
  2. Did you have any of the above symptoms within the past 10 days?
  3. Have you been in close contact (within 6 feet) with someone who is diagnosed with COVID019?
  4. Have had received a positive COVID-19 test in the past 14 days?
  5. Have you traveled internationally in the last 14 days?
Assessment responses must be reviewed every day, and such review must be documented. According to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an employer may require staff undergo either informal health screenings or formal medical testing for COVID-19 before they enter the workplace to determine if they have the virus. However, keep in mind that health exams must be conducted in a confidential way, and the results must be kept confidential. Also be aware that not all individuals infected with COVID-19 have a fever or display other observable symptoms.

What steps should an organization’s management take when an employee tests positive for or is diagnosed with COVID-19?

There are five main steps to take when addressing a confirmed positive COVID-19 case in your workplace:

  1. Quarantine confirmed employees at home. The infected employee should remain home until released by a physician or public health official.
  2. Identify any employees who worked in close proximity (within six feet) for a prolonged period of time (15 minutes or more) with the infected employee from the 48-hour period before the onset of their initial symptoms through the time when the infected staff member was diagnosed. These staff should be sent home and remain quarantined for 14 days after the last exposure occurred. While quarantined, these staff should self-monitor of symptoms (including temperature check twice per day and watching for a fever, cough, or shortness of breath).
  3. Clean and disinfect the workspace. Follow the CDC’s cleaning and disinfection guidelines here to apply best practices for cleaning and disinfecting the workplace. Be sure to clean and disinfect all areas (including offices, bathrooms, and common areas) that may have been used by the infected person, with extra efforts applied to cleaning frequently-touched surfaces.
  4. Notify all staff who work in the location. It is recommended that all staff in a workplace are made aware that a positive case has been identified among a workplace’s staff; however, you should not disclose the name or other confidential information about the infected staff member unless the employee has signed an authorization to disclose their diagnosis. Inform staff of the actions you have taken to sanitize the workspace, and advise staff to self-screen for symptoms.
  5. Notify the state and local health department and cooperate with contact tracing efforts, including notification of potential contacts, such as workers or visitors who had close contact with the individual, while maintaining confidentiality required by state and federal law and regulations. Contact tracers will call from “NYS Contact Tracing” (518-387-9993).

If a staff member has been exposed to COVID-19, or believes they need to be tested for COVID-19, can I require a proof that it is safe for them to return to work?

Yes, you may require a doctor’s note as proof that it is safe for an employee to return to work. The EEOC guidance on COVID-19, permits those inquiries under the ADA. As a practical matter, however, doctors and other health care professionals may be too busy to provide fitness-for-duty documentation. Therefore, new approaches may be necessary, such as reliance on local clinics to provide a form, a stamp, or an e-mail to certify that an individual does not have coronavirus.

Where can I / my staff call with questions about COVID-related health symptoms?

The following hotlines are available to answer your COVID-related health questions and connect you with resources: 1-888-928-0011 (UR Medicine)
1-585-922-4636 (Rochester Regional Health)
1-888-364-3065 (New York State) For the most up-to-date general information about how to protect yourself, please see the Center for Disease Control’s COVID health website here.

How can businesses and staff understand where and how many active COVID cases of COVID-19 are currently in the community?

Monroe County publishes case numbers daily on their COVID-19 dashboard found here. You can check your zip code to see current active cases in the area of your home or business.

Where can I find information about the COVID-19 vaccine?

For updated information about COVID-19 vaccines, including distribution and eligibility, click here.

Questions About Safety Practices

How do I keep employees who interact with customers safe?

Per guidance from the CDC, here are some steps to take to reduce risk of COVID-19 exposure when interacting with the public:

  • Consider options to increase physical space between employees and customers such as opening a drive-through window, erecting partitions, and marking floors to guide spacing at least six feet apart.
  • At least once a day clean and disinfect surfaces frequently touched by multiple people. This includes door handles, desks, phones, light switches, and faucets,
  • Consider assigning a person to rotate throughout the workplace to clean and disinfect surfaces.
  • Consider scheduling handwashing breaks so employees can wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Consider scheduling a relief person to give cashiers and service desk workers an opportunity to wash their hands.
  • For personal care services, implement a "by appointment only" policy to limit walk-in customers and congregation. Walk-in customers who are cannot be immediately served should be provided a time to return or given a call when they can re-enter.
  • Provide clearly designated, separate enterances and exits if possible.

Has the CDC issued any general guidance for all workers and employers to reduce their personal health risk during this COVID-19 crisis?

For all workers and employers, the CDC recommends that it is always good practice to:

  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. When soap and running water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands that are visibly soiled.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Practice good respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home if sick.
  • Recognize personal risk factors. According to the CDC, certain people, including older adults and those with underlying conditions such as heart or lung disease or diabetes, are at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19.

What are the recommended cleaning & disinfecting practices my organization can use to protect staff and customers from COVID-19?

The CDC has issued summarized guidance here and more detailed instructions here on effectively cleaning and disinfecting practices for public spaces, workplaces, businesses, schools, and homes. The CDC advises that while normal cleaning practices may be appropriate for outdoor areas (given that the virus does not survive well in warmer temperatures and when exposed to sunlight), indoor areas will require more intense and frequent cleaning. As recommended by the CDC, “Employers should work with their local and state health departments to ensure appropriate local protocols and guidelines, such as updated/additional guidance for cleaning and disinfection, are followed, including for identification of new potential cases of COVID-19.”

Can my business require all individuals wear facemasks covering one’s nose and mouth in order to enter my establishment? Can I refuse entry to those not complying with this requirement?

Yes – Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.34 on May 29, 2020, which authorizes businesses to deny entry to individuals who refuse to wear masks or other appropriate face coverings, so long as those refusing individuals are two years old or older and are able to medically tolerate face-covering.

Can my business refuse service to an individual who is coughing or displaying other active COVID-19 symptoms?

Yes, businesses are within their right to refuse service to anyone symptomatic of COVID-19 who they believe pose a risk to their staff or customers. Businesses are encouraged to post this check-list in their entryway to advise customers with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home and follow other safe practices in advance of entering the business

Questions About Reopening

How will re-opening of businesses work in New York state? Is my business/organization allowed to reopen?

Businesses and other organizations in New York will re-open in phases, determined by Governor Cuomo. The New York Forward website lists the type of businesses now able to reopen, with regulatory guidelines and sample safety plans for each business type. Note that Rochester is located in the Finger Lakes region, so please follow guidance from the State specific to our region. Still unsure of where your organization falls within the guidelines? You can input your county and specific business type into this NY Forward tool to see if your organization is able to resume operations.

I do not wish to operate my business or believe I cannot re-open safely at this time. Am I required to re-open at a specific time?

No. The re-opening guidelines from New York State provide permission for businesses to re-open on a specific schedule once available data indicate that risks of infection due to operation of a specific business activity have decreased – but this is not a mandate that requires you to re-open your business. You are free to remain closed until you feel safe to resume in-person operations. If you would like to learn more about making plans to re-open safely, please see this area of the website that provides both general guidance and guidelines by business type.

Can an employee refuse to return to work once the State has given permission for my business to physically re-open and resume in-person operations?

Employees are protected by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) in their decision to refuse to return to work site if they believe they are in imminent danger. Section 13(a) of OSHA defines “imminent danger” as “any conditions or practices in any place of employment which are such that a danger exists which can be reasonably be expected to cause death or serious physical harm immediately or before the imminence of such danger can be eliminated through the enforcement procedures otherwise provided by this Act.” According to OSHA regulations, employees are within their rights to refuse a work assignment that involves “a risk of death or serious physical harm” if all of the following conditions apply:

  1. The employee asked the employer to eliminate the danger, and the employer failed to do so;
  2. The employee refused to work in "good faith.” (a genuine belief that the situation presents an imminent danger);
  3. A reasonable person would agree that there is real danger of death or serious injury; and
  4. There isn’t enough time, due to the urgency of the hazard, to get it corrected through regular enforcement channels, such as requesting an OSHA inspection.
Staff should be provided with sufficient protective equipment to keep themselves safe at work. Those with pre-existing conditions may require additional accommodation to be kept safe during this health crisis, and employees needing these accommodations must request them from their employer. As with any accommodation request, the federal EEOC advises that employers may:
  • Ask questions to determine whether the staff’s condition is a disability
  • Discuss with the employee how the requested accommodation would assist him/her/them and enable him/her/them to keep or resume working
  • Explore alternative accommodations that may effectively meet these needs
  • Request medical documentation if needed
For more information about the implications of the Americans with Disabilities Act during the COVID-19 crisis, please see this FAQ page from the EEOC.

Are there any general guidelines that are recommended for employers to follow to prepare for re-opening?

While specific measures will vary based on the nature of your business or organization, the federal government recommends that all workplaces develop and implement appropriate safety policies that include:

  • Implementing social distancing and any necessary protective equipment for staff and customers
  • Daily symptom screening of staff
  • Temperature checks when possible for staff and customers
  • Increased sanitation stations and practices
  • Frequent disinfection of common and high-traffic areas
  • Minimize non-essential business travel by staff
  • Strongly consider making special accommodations for workers who are members of vulnerable populations (which include elderly individuals, those with serious underlying health conditions, and those whose immune systems are compromised)
For more detailed and specific recommendations and instructions, please see OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19. Also see the Guidance for Reopening of Businesses section of this website.

Are employers required to supply facemasks to employees whose jobs require they interact with the public?

Yes, New York State has required employers to provide facemasks to any employee that regularly involves close contact (I.e., within six feet or less) of the public.

Questions about Requirements for Businesses During the Crisis

Are employers required to offer sick leave during the COVID crisis?

According to the State of New York, “Some employers in New York State are now required to provide at least five days of job protected, paid sick leave to employees who need to take leave because they or their minor dependent child are under a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19. The amount of paid sick leave an employer is required to provide depends on the number of employees they have and the employer’s net annual income.”

  • For employers with between 1 and 10 employees and a net income of $1 million or less in 2019: employers are not required to provide new paid sick days. These businesses are advised to use Paid Family Leave and disability benefits.
  • For employers with between 1 and 10 employees and a net income over $1 million in 2019: you must provide at least five paid sick days for staff.
  • For employers with between 11 and 99 employees: you must provide at least five paid sick days for staff.
  • For employers with 100 or more employees or for public employers of any size: you must provide at least 14 paid sick days for staff.
The above rules apply to the organization size (number of staff employed) as of 1/1/2020. Further, the Federal Government has enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), requiring paid leave related to COVID-19 through December 31st, 2020. These rules apply to public and private employers with fewer than 500 employees. Employers with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt. Qualifying employers must provide up to 2 weeks (80 hours) of paid sick leave to employees who are unable to work or telework for the following reasons:
  • If the employee is subject to a government quarantine order, has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine, or is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking medical attention, the employer must pay sick leave at 100% of the employee’s regular rate, up to $511 per day or $5,110 total.
  • If the employee is caring for someone who is subject to a government quarantine order, or who has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine, the employer must pay sick leave at 2/3 the employee’s regular rate, up to $200 per day or $2,000 total.
Qualifying employers must provide up to 10 weeks of paid, and 2 weeks unpaid, sick leave to employees who are unable to work or telework for the following reason:
  • If the employee is caring for his or her son or daughter whose school or place of care is closed or whose child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, the employer must pay sick leave at 2/3 the employee’s regular rate, up to $200 per day or $12,000 total.
More detail on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act are available from the U.S. Department of Labor:

I've heard New York State has required businesses and other organizations to create a safety plan for reopening. Where can I find this plan template, and do I need to submit this to a state agency or other governmental organization?

All businesses and other entities must fill out the NY Forward Safety Plan Template located here: Businesses do not need to submit this plan to a state agency or other government entity for approval, but it must be retained on premises and available in case of an inspection by a state or county health authority. Organizations should refer to the State's industry-specific guidance for more information how to safely operate.

Questions About Financial Assistance

My business has been financially impacted by COVID-19. Where can I go to get help?

Please see this section of our website for information on resources for businesses to learn more about local, state, and federal grant and loan programs available to Rochester businesses impacted by this crisis.

I've heard there’s a federal grant called the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). What is it, and what organizations are eligible?

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a federal loan to small businesses to help them keep their workers on their payroll during the COVID-19 crisis. These loans are issued by the federal government’s Small Business Administration (SBA). Organizations can borrow up to $10 million or the 2.5x the organization’s average monthly payroll costs, whichever is less. Loans will have a maturity of 2 years, with a 1% interest rate. Payments are deferred for 6 months following the disbursement of the loan, but interest will accrue on the loan beginning with disbursement. The SBA will forgive these loans to businesses if the busines can certify that they kept all of their employees on their payroll for eight weeks and that the loan funds were spent on payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities expenses. To be eligible, and organization or other business concern must:

  • Have 500 or fewer employees whose principal place of residence is in the United States
  • Be either:
    • A small business concern as defined in section 3 of the Small Business Act
    • A 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization
    • A 501(c)(19) tax exempt veterans organization
    • A Tribal business concern
    • An individual who operates a sole proprietorship, is an independent contractor, or is an eligible self-employed individual
  • Have been in operation on February 15, 2020 and had employees or paid independent contractors
  • If a seasonal business, must have been in operation for any 8-week period between May 1, 2019 and September 15, 2019
  • Meet any other eligibility requirements as outlined in the program’s most recent guidelines
For specific guidelines for faith-based organizations, see this FAQ page. Businesses can apply through SBA 7(a) lenders or through any federally insured depository institution or federally insured credit union.

Are there local organizations providing technical assistance to small businesses?

Yes! There are a number of local organizations providing technical advice and assistance to small and medium sized businesses in Rochester, including:

What is the state’s Shared Work Program? How can it help businesses affected by COVID-19 avoid having to lay off staff?

The New York State Department of Labor’s (NYSDOL) Shared Work Program allows businesses to manage business cycles and seasonal adjustments while retaining trained staff and avoiding layoffs. Employees can receive partial Unemployment Insurance benefits while working reduced hours. Full-time, part-time and seasonal employees are eligible. For more information, see the program website. To ask specific questions, email or call 518-549-0496 or 518-457-2635

Questions About Resources For Employees

I have staff who are very stressed about their job, health, or family during this crisis. What resources can I refer them to?

Per guidance from the State of New York: “On March 26, 2020, Governor Cuomo announced that more than 8,000 mental health professionals signed up to provide free online mental health services. The helpline is staffed by trained volunteers, including mental health professionals, who have received training in crisis counseling related to mental health consequences of infectious disease outbreaks, typical stress reactions, anxiety management, coping skills, and telephonic counseling. The helpline will be accessible to New Yorkers who are deaf or hard of hearing, and to non-English speaking callers, through the Language Line. New Yorkers can call the state's hotline at 1-844-863-9314.”

Are there any free resources available to help Rochester-area workers or entrepreneurs navigate their individual financial challenges at this time -- including help with budgeting or specific issues like managing debt or figuring out how to get access to credit?

If you or your staff’s finances have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rochester Financial Empowerment Center (FEC) offers free, personal financial counseling provided by trained professional coaches who can meet with new and returning clients either over the phone or through online sessions. Counselors are prepared to provide assistance contacting loan providers to lower regular payments, assistance with creating an emergency budget to prepare for the months to come, and assistance in connecting clients with additional resources and services. More information can be found here on the program website. To schedule an appointment call 585-252-7110. The FEC has also compiled a page of COVID-specific resources here for your convenience.

General Questions

I’ve heard that people can have COVID-19 but show no symptoms – but they can still give it to others and make these other people critically sick. Is that true? And how can I best protect myself while also avoiding spreading COVID-19 to others?

Yes, it is true that COVID-19 impacts different people in different ways, and there is a lot of evidence that many people have no symptoms at all but can still spread the virus to other people, who themselves can get critically ill. The CDC has easy-to-follow instructions here on how to protect yourself and others from the virus. The basic ways to protect yourself include:

  • Wash your hands often – with soap and warm water – for at least 20 seconds at a time – and especially after you have been in a public place or after you blow your nose, cough, or sneeze
  • If you don’t have access to soap and water, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from anyone who isn’t a member of your household.
  • Don’t gather in groups.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a cloth face mask when around others.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces (follow the CDC’s guidelines on the website linked above)
  • Monitor your health – if you have signs of a fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other COVID-19 symptoms, seek guidance from your physician or the public health department.

Where can I learn more about the COVID-19 virus?

The World Health Organization’s website FAQ page here contains the basic information about Coronavirus. This information from the WHO is also available in video format via this YouTube link.

When will parks and other public spaces be open?

All City parks are currently open. Social distancing must be respected. No gatherings with over 10 people are allowed. Camping is now permitted in Monroe County with reservations and COVID-19 restrictions. As of May 20, 2020 Monroe County Dog Parks are open with capacity limitations and COVID-19 restrictions. See more information on dog park capacity, seasonal park opening dates and all other park/lake activities here.

Will the schools be open again in the fall?

The reopening of education depends on our city and county’s COVID-19 metrics. If we meet all the required metrics by the fall, then it is a possibility that schools could re-open.

Are religious services allowed to resume?

Refer to the guidance from NYS on Places of Worship here.

I cannot pay my rent. Will I be evicted?

Residential and commercial tenants are protected under a New York State eviction moratorium until June 20, 2020. This moratorium is extended to August 20, 2020 for residents who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. Specific information including what happens if you are diagnosed with COVID-19 and are threatened with eviction during self-isolation or are in need of a place to go to escape domestic violence during quarantine can be found here.

How can an individual file a complaint about businesses opening prematurely or otherwise in violation of the “New York State on PAUSE” regulations?

Click here to file a complaint with New York State regarding a business, location, or incident in your community, or call 1-833-789-0470. If you are filing a complaint about your employer or place of work, use this form.

What if I have a question that was not answered in this FAQ sheet or elsewhere on the website?

If your question was not answered, here are additional references that may help:

I cannot buy groceries/ food. Where can I access support services that provide groceries/ meals?

Foodlink is providing drive-through distribution of grocery boxes for families in need of food during this crisis. A typical box may include: pasta, pasta sauce, canned soups, canned vegetables, canned fruits, canned tuna, cereal, and other foods. Some perishable goods – such as dairy products, eggs, and produce – may also be available. Please see Foodlink’s website here for more information on locations and schedules. For families with school-age children: With schools having closed during the COVID-19 Emergency, the City of Rochester and the Rochester City School District have partnered to serve children pre-packaged breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Click here for a map showing pick-up locations. For seniors: The City of Rochester is collaborating with 20 restaurants to deliver meals to area seniors, age 60 and over, who live within the city Limits and are unable to travel to access food due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Click here for more information or call 211. For seniors: Lifespan of Greater Rochester is distributing food to at-risk elderly homeowners affected by the pandemic. This is funded by the City’s CARES act additional allocation of CDBG funding. For more information, click here to visit their website.

Where can I find information about the COVID-19 vaccine?

For updated information about COVID-19 vaccines, including distribution and eligibility, click here.

Where can I find information about the COVID-19 vaccine?

For updated information about vaccines, including distribution and eligiblity, click here.