Update on the HERO Act

Editor's note:

On Monday, September 6, 2021, New York's Gov. Kathy Hochul designated COVID-19 an airborne infectious disease under New York State's HERO Act.

September 03, 2021

Dear Colleague,

I write to inform you that the New York State Legislature recently passed the HERO Act, which requires all employers in New York to adopt a prevention plan to protect against the transmission of any future airborne infectious diseases in the workplace, when designated as such by the New York State Department Commissioner of Health. To comply with these requirements, Columbia University has adopted the New York State Department of Labor’s HERO Act model plan for Private Education. As defined by the HERO Act this plan does not apply to the current COVID-19 pandemic. For more information on the HERO Act, please go to https://dol.ny.gov/ny-hero-act.

Similar to Columbia’s current COVID-19 exposure prevention strategies, Columbia’s HERO Act prevention plan establishes minimum requirements for face coverings, required PPE, regular cleaning and disinfecting of shared equipment and frequently touched surfaces, and effective physical distancing for employees, as well as other controls. Again, Columbia’s HERO Act prevention plan was developed to address the transmission of a future airborne infectious disease and will only be activated should the New York State Commissioner of Health declare that such a risk exists.

The HERO Act prohibits discrimination and retaliation if an employee reports violations of the Act; reports airborne infectious disease exposure concerns; or refuses to work if the employee reasonably believes there to be unreasonable risk of exposure to an airborne infectious disease.

Again, we invite you to review Columbia’s plan, found here. If, after reviewing the plan you have any questions, please contact Dr. Kathleen Crowley, Associate Vice President for Environmental Health and Safety at [email protected].


Donna Lynne, DrPH

Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and Chief Executive Officer, ColumbiaDoctors