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As COVID-19 Emergency Declaration Expires, So Does Healthcare Worker Immunity

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

Yesterday, the state of emergency in the Empire State expired. Governor Cuomo announced that the state’s COVID-19 emergency declaration is scheduled to expire Thursday, June 24, 2021, and will not be renewed.

The end of the state of emergency also means that the immunity protections afforded health care providers pursuant to Public Health Law § 3082 will expire on June 24, 2021, for any act or omission occurring after the expiration of the COVID-19 emergency declaration.

Obviously, this is good news in all aspects for everyone living and working in the state of New York.  Governor Cuomo characterized it as a “return to life as we know it.” 

The Public Health Law expiration means healthcare workers will once again be liable for acts or omissions that are deemed to have caused harm to the patient. 

The lifting of the COVID restrictions also means an uptick in elective surgeries and most likely all other non-emergency procedures delayed by the pandemic.  Hopefully, this will not result in a corresponding increase in surgical or medical errors.

Surgery Guidelines

The American Society of Anesthesiologists and the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation issued these guidelines for timing surgery for former Covid-19 patients:

  • Four weeks if a patient was asymptomatic or had mild, non-respiratory symptoms.
  • Six weeks for a symptomatic patient who wasn’t hospitalized.
  • Eight to 10 weeks for a symptomatic patient who has diabetes, is immunocompromised or was hospitalized.
  • Twelve weeks for a patient who spent time in an intensive care unit.

Those guidelines are not definitive, according to the groups. The operation to be performed, patients’ medical conditions, and the risk of delaying surgery should all be factored in.

Edward A. Ruffo, Partner

Edward A. Ruffo, Partner

Mr. Ruffo currently litigates cases at the state and federal levels in New York and New Jersey and has obtained numerous multi-million dollar medical damage awards for his clients. He has been annually ranked as a Top 10 and Top 100 Trial Lawyer by numerous professional societies including The National Trial Lawyers Association.

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