Governor Ralph Northam approved the Permanent COVID-19 Workplace Safety and Health Standards, which replace the expiring COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard. The standard requires Virginia businesses to develop COVID-19 safety strategies much like other workplace safety requirements.
“While the end of this pandemic is finally in sight, the virus is still spreading, including several highly contagious variants, and now is not the time to let up on preventative measures,” Northam said in a press release. “I am grateful to the many businesses and organizations who have been with us throughout this process and continue to take the necessary steps to operate safely. These standards will reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure and protect the health and safety of Virginia workers, consumers, and communities as we move our Commonwealth forward together.”
“In addition to requiring all public-facing employees to wear masks, the standards ensure ready access to hand sanitizer and the regular cleaning of common work spaces,” the press release states. Employers also have to develop plans for infectious diseases and train employees on COVID-19 safety.
“These scientifically based standards will help keep Virginia’s workers and their families safe during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Ray Davenport said in the release.
“[Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights)] has serious concerns about the burdens the new permanent standard will place on small businesses and doesn’t believe we should be using a temporary pandemic as an excuse to adopt permanent regulations. As Governor, he will convene a thorough review of this rule that gives business a better seat at the table to craft policy that actually works for them,” Kirk Cox for Governor Press Secretary Kristen Bennett said in a statement.
Gubernatorial candidate Pete Snyder said, “While Governor Northam is focused on forcing new regulations on small businesses, our schools are still closed and Virginia is near last in distributing vaccines. The career politicians have completely failed us in this crisis and still have no plan to get our kids back in the classrooms and get our economy back on track. It’s time for new leadership.”
“If Northam worked for me at the Pentagon, he would have been fired for his terrible handling of this crisis. Even as liberal California is starting to open, Northam wants to keep his foot on the neck of our small businesses,” gubernatorial candidate Sergio de la Peña said.
Gubernatorial candidate Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) said she is concerned that reporting around COVID-19 has caused unnecessary fear in customers, harming businesses. She argued that businesses should set their own standards, alongside basic best practices guidance from the government that includes hand washing.
“I personally have read things that say that cloth masks really do not work,” Chase said. ” f we are really going to implement safety standards we need to go with the science that actually works.”
She said that making the COVID-19 safety standards permanent was a mistake since it assumes that COVID-19 will be a permanent problem.
“I do believe [COVID-19] is real. I do believe we need to take it seriously, but I think we need to look at the big picture and as Virginia’s next governor that’s one of things I would do,” Chase said. “How do we balance having public safety best practices while also making sure we do not impact fiscally [and] financially individuals and businesses who are trying to make a living?”
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