By Jonathan R. Mook
When the COVID-19 pandemic first began forcing workplaces to close or at least limit their operations to curb the spread of the virus, Virginia was one of the first states to adopt a COVID-19 safety standard for employers. Now that the pandemic has waned, at least in terms of COVID-19 hospitalizations, Virginia has shifted its approach.
Revocation of COVID-19 Standard
Recently, the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board voted unanimously to recognize that Covid-19 no longer poses a “grave danger” to workers and to recommend that Gov. Youngkin approve the withdrawal of Virginia’s mandatory COVID-19 Standard. In response, Governor Youngkin applauded the Board’s decision and issued the following statement on the matter:
Businesses asked us for updated workplace guidance to reflect our current COVID-19 situation in Virginia. We are pleased with the board’s move and this vote signals that a return to normalcy in Virginia is not a partisan issue. We’re going to continue providing greater certainty and decision-making power to businesses and workers in the Commonwealth as we move beyond the pandemic. With the removal of these regulations, it is undeniable that Virginia is open for business.
New COVID-19 Guidelines
Although Virginia no longer has a mandatory COVID-19 Standard in place, the Board has issued Guidance for workplaces, as Virginia “transitions to near normalcy.” The Guidance includes the following steps for employers to follow:
- Facilitate employees getting vaccinated and boosted
- Encourage workers with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home and seek advice on testing and treatment from their physician;
- Require all workers infected with the COVID-19 virus to stay home;
- Provide workers with face coverings, as appropriate;
- Encourage good sanitary work habits such as frequent hand washing;
- Educate workers on your COVID-19 policies and procedures;
- Operate and maintain ventilation systems in accordance with manufacturers specifications to achieve optimal performance;
- Continue to record and report COVID-19 infections and deaths, which are mandatory under VOSH regulations part 1904.
Masking has become a major political issue, and in that regard, Virginia employers should note that the Guidance suggests that employers provide masks as “appropriate.” This situation may arise where you have immunocompromised employees or employees with young children who are especially concerned about the medical consequences of contracting COVID-19. Remember that your bottom line must be to provide a safe workplace for all of your employees.