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Update re COVID-19-linked immunity for medical personnel

New York State is facing the COVID-19 health crisis like no other state. In response, Governor Andrew Cuomo has taken decisive measures to protect the healthcare workers on the front lines of this crisis.

One of Governor Cuomo’s proactive moves is the just-announced action to modify certain state laws addressing the crisis pursuant to his powers via Executive Order 202, which he issued earlier this month. The order focuses on several distinct areas, materially affecting legal provisions and extending new dictates through April 22, 2020.

One new mandate confers on hospitals spanning the state “all measures necessary to increase the number of beds available to patients.” Another liberalizes the definition of “emergency medical services” to allow for quicker and unfettered expansion of coronavirus medical care.

Further mandates permit physician assistants and nurse practitioners to provide medical services without oversight from a supervising or collaborative physician without civil or criminal penalties related to this lack of oversight. Health care providers are also relieved of various recordkeeping requirements to the extent necessary for them to perform tasks as may be necessary to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes requirements regarding evaluation and treatment, as well as diagnostic codes. Providers acting reasonably and in good faith under this provision are afforded absolute immunity from liability for any failure to comply with any recordkeeping requirement.

And then there is this crucially important change: the grant of qualified immunity from civil liability for virtually all New York medical professionals providing care to COVID-19 patients. New language issued under the executive order provides that liability for a patient’s injury or death going forward can only be established where gross negligence is proven.

That is a high standard, and something that officials believe must be in place for medical providers who are currently working under exceptionally trying circumstances.

We encourage readers to regularly visit our firm’s website and blog posts for timely updates on important COVID-19 information. The Tarantino Law Firm is committed to keeping our valued clients and the general public fully informed on relevant news concerning the pandemic.