A New York State construction group on Thursday beseeched Mayor Bill de Blasio to lift “confusing” mask requirements for vaccinated hard hats to give them relief amid the summer heat — prompting the city’s building department to relax face covering guidance in accordance with state and federal regulations, The Post has learned.
“The Department is rescinding our COVID enforcement to reflect changes in state guidelines,” said Department of Buildings spokesperson Seth Stein.
“We’re grateful that our industry partners worked with us by going above and beyond to help keep construction workers and the public safe during these unprecedented times.”
Prior to Thursday, the city’s mask-wearing rules at construction sites were out of step with federal and state rules, which now allow inoculated construction workers to work on job sites mask-free. At construction sites under the city’s jurisdiction, vaccinated construction laborers were still required to wear masks prior to Thursday afternoon.
But following inquiries from The Post about the construction and contracting group’s ask, the Department of Buildings reversed course, and via a new bulletin rescinded a series of pandemic precautions, including a mask-wearing requirement for vaccinated builders.
The new Big Apple regulations come after Gov. Andrew Cuomo on June 15 lifted all New York State-mandated COVID-19 health and safety requirements — as, according to federal statistics, the state cleared the threshold of 70 percent of adults vaccinated.
The city’s nixing of the mask requirement also follows a major New York State construction group’s letter to de Blasio requesting its removal.
Michael Elmendorf, president and CEO of the Associated General Contractors of New York, said Thursday that since Center for Disease Control guidance permits inoculated construction employees to go mask-free while working, New York City should follow suit.
“I urge you to bring New York City’s policies on masks and face coverings on jobsites into conformance with current CDC guidance,” Elmendorf wrote in a one-page letter addressed to the mayor and obtained by The Post. “I respectfully urge you to revise or rescind existing City orders on face coverings to bring New York City’s policies in alignment with CDC guidance and the rest of New York State.”
The Empire State contractor bigwig noted that, due to COVID-19 precautions that remained in effect in the Big Apple, agencies like the Department of Buildings and School Construction Authority “continue to have in place a face covering mandate on jobsites.”
Previously, vaccinated construction workers at MTA building sites were allowed to work without a mask, while inoculated hard hats at sites under city authority were required to toil in the hot summer sun while wearing a face covering, since “the city has not cleaned up their COVID policies,” Elmendorf told The Post before the new guidance.
The former framework where state and federal sites are mask-free zones for vaccinated construction workers, but city-run building sites require workers to wear them has created a “confusing and problematic question of enforcement.”
“Our members and industry take safety standards very seriously and have particularly assiduously followed them throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, data has shown that construction has not been a significant source of COVID-10 transmission,” he wrote.
From September to November, construction sites were the transmission setting of just 0.66 percent of the COVID-19 cases identified by contact tracing, according to data presented by Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a December press conference.
The different rules for city, federal and state-regulated sites caused “bridling,” as bosses attempt to enforce the mask-wearing requirement during scorching summer days.
“Construction workers … are well aware of the relaxed face covering requirements and are often bridling as contractors and owners continue to try to adhere to the rules as they currently understand them in New York City,” he wrote prior to the new guidance. “Adding to the challenge is the onset of summer heat, which makes wearing a face covering while working construction even more challenging and potentially unhealthy.”
Metro | New York Post