July 20, 2020 · OPINION
Every Virginia business subject to COVID-19 rules
By Stephen D. Haner
The first thing every employer in Virginia needs to understand about the state's new COVID-19 temporary workplace standard is it is universal. It applies to every workplace, public and private, for-profit and non-profit, with 10,000 workers or two. The rules are the same, “one size fits all,” without regard to the nature of the industry.
The second thing every employer in Virginia needs to understand about the standard is that it is only temporarily temporary. The goal, and work will begin quickly, is to convert the set of requirements into a permanent regulation, with a permanent burden on employers going forward to protect their employees from a disease circulating widely outside their establishments.
The third thing every employer in Virginia needs to understand about the standard is that complying with federal standards or specific industry standards may not protect you from state complaints or fines. Efforts to create a regulatory “safe harbor” for those who met similar federal standards was initially accepted, but in the end watered down under vast union pressure, peaking in this story in Virginia Mercury the day of the final meeting.
The “loophole” created by relying on compliance with the Center for Disease Control’s recommendations was closed, and such compliance only provides protection if the CDC approach “provides equivalent or greater protection than provided by a provision of this standard.” If you can't prove it does to the satisfaction of the state, you may be fined. What you’ve been doing to date, no matter how well it has worked, may not match these new standards.
Only Virginia’s public and private schools of higher education, and public and private K-12 schools, can rely on re-opening plans cleared by the state rather than this standard. But, again, those plans must “provide equivalent or greater levels of employee protection than a provision of this standard.” It is not really an exemption.
For the other estimated 300,000 work locations around the commonwealth, the new paperwork, the costs of compliance and the consequences of violation are unavoidable. Any case involving an employee or somebody else in the workplace must be reported to the Department of Health, and three cases within 14 days must be reported to the Department of Labor and Industry.
The July 15 approval by the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board, after four contentious meetings marked by close internal votes, is being cheered by labor unions as a victory with national repercussions, and Gov. Ralph Northam has been happy to take a deep bow. They claim it will lead to more economic activity, but there is reason to fear it will add costs and uncertainty that impede re-openings and hiring. People will ultimately pay for compliance twice, as a customer or as a taxpayer.
The full 35-page text of the standard with all the changes incorporated was released July 17 and should be published in a Richmond newspaper within a week or so. Once published, it is in effect for six months, or until Gov. Northam lifts his emergency declaration, or until a permanent version is adopted.
> Document at bottom of story
These rules must be viewed in connection with the other shoe which may drop, an effort to make COVID-19 a recognized workplace disease covered by workers’ compensation benefits. Unlike with traditional occupational diseases, no job or workplace activity causes COVID-19. People can catch and spread it anywhere.
All Virginia employers — even those with only a few employees and perhaps even the self-employed — must begin to assess and rank every job, job task and facility for their level of risk to viral spread, screen all employees and suppliers entering, begin to keep detailed records on employees showing symptoms or testing positive, conduct contract notifications within their workplaces, and prevent the return of known or suspected sick employees until medically cleared.
That clearance could include two negative test results, taken 24 hours apart, but given the backlog of testing in recent weeks that may greatly extend the employee’s absence. Getting medical clearance after a period of three days with no symptoms may prove quicker. Any employee who tests positive but shows no symptoms will also be unable to enter for at least ten days. Employers must pay for tests.
Every employer with 10 or more workers has 60 days to prepare a written disease prevention and response plan. Within 30 days they must conduct extensive training with all employees, geared to the risk level of their jobs. If the employee then behaves as if the training didn't stick, another round must be provided, as must be the case if the company's plan is amended or the understanding of the disease changes.
The initial draft of this was published in mid-June, with only a few days allowed for public comment. Thousands poured in anyway during that short period, including the most impressive and near unanimous outcry from the business community in recent memory. Only a few changes were made to accommodate those employer concerns, although a minority on the board put up a spirited resistance in close votes. Ex-officio votes controlled by Northam cabinet officers were often crucial in overriding amendments.
One of the final debates July 15 involved protection for employees who complain of workplace violations, not just to regulators or their fellow employees, but also to outside news media or on social media platforms. Even if false or posted in malice, Facebook comments accusing your employer on this issue cannot lead to any internal disciplinary action.
Following a pattern on other controversial elements over this process, a motion to remove the part about outside media was defeated on a 5-5 vote, with various abstentions and absences. Five of 14 board members imposed that standard. The final adoption by only 9 of the 14 members was the final indication that this was not a consensus product and is likely to meet continued resistance.
Covid-19 - Emergency Tempor... by Fauquier Now on Scribd
Jerome Fields · July 31, 2020 at 7:13 pm
for those of you who think our the current administration is helping our economy here go another round of tariffs with China, that will come to bite consumers again:
"The idea behind the tariffs: leverage more pressure on China to agree to a deal that the two countries have been negotiating for months. Speaking to reporters Thursday, President Donald Trump erroneously said China would pay for the tariffs, not U.S. consumers.
“It’s been proven that our people are not paying for those tariffs,” he said.
In fact, American companies are the ones that pay for the tariffs and much of that cost is passed on to American consumers. And any retaliatory tariffs China imposes could have larger ripple effects throughout the U.S. and the global economy."
"When Chinese companies do not lower prices, U.S. retailers have three options: absorb the cost of the tax, pass it along to consumers, or search for an alternative supplier from a country other than China. At the beginning of the trade war, companies had little choice but to absorb the costs or pass them along to their customers because international orders are placed months in advance, making it difficult to renegotiate prices.
The National Bureau of Economic Research study found that, in 2018, 100 percent of the cost of the tariffs were passed onto consumers.
Early on, many businesses were waiting to see if the trade dispute was resolved before they make any major adjustments to their supply chains, said Oleg Itskhoki, an economics and international affairs professor at Princeton University.
As the trade war continues, more companies are moving away from Chinese suppliers. Apple is reportedly considering shifting some of its operations to Vietnam and India. But that does not necessarily mean lower costs for U.S. consumers.
It is not cheap to find new suppliers. Plus domestic producers, as well as those from other countries, often raise their prices when tariffs are in place because they know customers have few other options. Those extra costs typically get passed on to consumers."
rookie · July 31, 2020 at 12:49 am
I hate Covide 19. It is coming back and destroying stronger :( baby run 3
badelectronics · July 24, 2020 at 6:39 am
Poor The Donald. He has joined the cancel culture and canceled his Jacksonville event. What a big baby.
DonkeyFarmer · July 23, 2020 at 11:04 pm
American Patriot - I thought you were just being funny.... but unbelievably it is TRUE! Mayor Bowser exempted government workers from the mask order! This is just nuts! Why is anyone following these orders?
AmericanPatriot · July 23, 2020 at 10:48 pm
The mayor of DC, a democrat, has mandated mask wearing, unless you are a politician, judge or government worker.
Isn't it amazing how these people are immune to the raging bat flu?
Silii · July 23, 2020 at 6:23 pm
Well, lots of potential attendees to Jacksonville have been coming up with every feeble excuse in the world not to attend. The difference is he isn't trashing the governor of Florida the way he trashed the governor of NC. He's not scared of catching covid 19 because - ta da- he can start taking hydroxychloroquine again or maybe even sip a cleaning product.
badelectronics · July 23, 2020 at 5:59 pm
Poor 'The Donald' canceled his Jacksonville stop. I guess he's scared of the Covid-19!!!
Silii · July 23, 2020 at 4:30 pm
Over 4 million confirmed cases in the US and hundreds more daily. Extensive unemployment. Billions more added to the already out of control national debt. Millions shifted from the defense budget for a construction contract to friends in North Dakota whose pieces of the wall they just built are alreay crumbling and in need of shoring up to prevent falling into the river. Why in the world should Trump have ever taken the novel corona virus seriously? What's to worry about? He's way too busy commuting Roger Stone's sentence thus keeping Stone from being a Big Singer and wishing well to his and Melania's friend Ghislaine Maxwell, alleged sex trafficker of minor females on behalf of Trump's friend and convicted sex trafficker and rapist of underage females Jeffrey Epstein, turning the US into a banana republic. Corrupting the justice system. Lord, with all that and more, why would Trump ever have time to care about the pandemic?
AmericanPatriot · July 23, 2020 at 10:23 am
Stick your masks and your idiotic left wing agenda up your obamas
Sammy · July 23, 2020 at 9:06 am
badelectronics · July 23, 2020 at 8:26 am
jim goodwin · July 22, 2020 at 5:24 pm
LOL, Silii. Shame on you for not understanding plain English. Nothing I said was authoritative. "Should" is a suggestion, not a command.
I don't own a business in Fauquier but if I did, I'd gladly post such a sign in the window. Our wonderful government can't figure out how to contain this virus without shutting down businesses. There are people willing to take a risks and there are those that aren't.
The people have spoken when they go out in public wearing masks. The people have spoken when millions across the country are willing to accept the risk of catching and spreading the disease by gathering in the streets to protest, going to the beaches, having street parties and generally going about their day-to-day lives. We the people have spoken and the government should step off!
Sweden has reached herd immunity because they didn't shut down. They accepted the risk. We, on the other hand, took draconian measures that hid a vast portion of our healthy population away so that they could not come in contact with the disease and build immunity early. All we're doing is prolonging the inevitable.
The real reason for all this is simply to ensure that the economy is weak so that Trump can't use it as an election talking point.
brandonj · July 22, 2020 at 5:19 pm
This is nothing like what Hitler did you fools.
Silii · July 22, 2020 at 3:56 pm
How this devolved to the government's paramilitary troops in Portland is beyond me. But, since this is where a wear a mask policy disussion went, those unidentied paramilitary folks should just surround the federal building and if marchers or protesters begin to damage the building, then stop them. Trump et al have said the paramilitary are there to protect federal property, so keep it to that. They shoul not be in the streets, they should not be beating citizens with batons or firing tear gas or any other chemical or engaging in any other type of violence against people exercising free speech. They should ONLY be surrounding the federal building, stand there, unmoving, uninvolved. These tactics with unidentified troops is exactly what Hitler did. And if you think that is an outrageous statement, I suggest you do some deep research on how the Nazis proceeded, step by step, including regular citizens thinking it was A OK.
And Jim Goodwin, shame on you thinking YOU have the authority to tell anyone to lock themselves away from any human contact. You gripe about the government telling you what to do. Darlin', YOU have absolutely no right to tell anyone else what to do. Right? Do you operate a business in Fauquier County? Which one so I can organize a boycott.
Linda Ward · July 22, 2020 at 2:46 pm
brandonj - In addition, you are incorrect about my disliking Trump.
I HATE the Conman and Mob Boss in the WH.
Linda Ward · July 22, 2020 at 1:55 pm
brandonj - Did I say the "police"? Those are not the police in Portland.
Who are you by the way to tell me to tone down anything? The "commenter" police?
brandonj · July 22, 2020 at 1:38 pm
@Linda Ward you might want to consider toning back your unhelpful rhetoric and pretending you're a CNN anchor. None of this is happening in our town. Go ahead, take a poll to see who is "terrified" of police around here. I'd wager maybe 1%, consisting mostly of crazy people or Marxists.
What's happening in Portland is a long time coming and totally legal. We've seen these Antifa "protests" for years. They've had daily violence and destruction for 2 months since George Floyd was murdered. You don't like Trump, we get it.
Linda Ward · July 22, 2020 at 10:23 am
brandonj - How is it not terrifying when people are walking around with loaded weapons, tear gas, and flash grenades on our streets? Who are the terrorists here?
Linda Ward · July 22, 2020 at 10:21 am
Our world is on the edge of insanity and we are looking over the edge to the abyss.
brandonj · July 22, 2020 at 7:43 am
@badelectronics I really don't really care about protesters being "pushed out" of a public street in close proximity to the WH. We haven't seen the full force of what the government is capable of when you're classified a terrorist organization. These people should have obtained a permit and had a lawful assembly in a park like every honest protest I've ever been to instead of intentionally looking for a clash.
badelectronics · July 22, 2020 at 6:05 am
@Brrandonj:Where you okay with what the feds did in D.C?
jim goodwin · July 21, 2020 at 6:54 pm
Here's an idea, let's allow every business to post a notice along the lines of, "Any person that enters this establishment implicitly agrees that they may contract a communicable disease. If you enter these premises, you acknowledge this fact and cannot hold the proprietor responsible because you have been warned that there is a risk. If you cannot accept this risk, you should not enter these premises. In fact, you should lock yourself away from all human contact."
brandonj · July 21, 2020 at 1:09 pm
@badelectronics first off, the feds in Portland aren't doing anything illegal we haven't granted them under the NDAA. Second, it's not even illegal to detain someone w/ suspicion and release them within a small time frame, which is apparently what is happening.
I'm not endorsing the behavior, but it's probably better than the alternative: widespread violence between protestors/rioters (we don't know the truth) and police.
AngryBob · July 21, 2020 at 11:48 am
Silii: I stopped reading at the "injecting bleach" part. It's impossible to take anyone seriously who actually believes that. Or worse, just lies about it.
Silii · July 21, 2020 at 8:42 am
Life's a b when there's a pandemic caused by a highly contagious virus, isn't it? Wearing a facemask to help stop the spread - wow, that's like asking someone to sacrifice their firstborn at the altar of the Constitution. Wow, a governor who gets the dangers of the virus and decides to take positive action until there's a vaccine available to all and try to stop the spread - boy that's just awful. It's even worse when there is no leadership from the White House where suggesting injecting bleach should be researched as a treatment and where wishy-washy confusion and inability to lead turned decisionmaking over to individual governors. (We see what's happening in FL, TX, GA, AZ, SC with those governors, don't we? And number of positive cases is creeping back up in VA) I'm grateful to have a serious-minded governor. Meanwhile, here's the logic I'm witnessing: I don't wear a facemask, my choice. If you don't like it, stay home. (As in: Not OK for the government to ask me to stay home or wear a facemask in public places but OK for some geek on the street to tell me to stay home?) The 'logic' is akin to: I will drink and drive, my choice, if you don't like it, stay home. I'm gonna run stop signs and red lights, my choice. I'm going to drive my vehicle into the back of yours and kill your children in the back seat. My choice. If you don't like it, stay home. So, OK. I have lots of money to spend at local businesses but if customers choose not to wear masks for a few minutes or go into a local business not wearing a mask just to be obnoxious towards the shopowner, or if business owners choose to ignore safety rules re the virus, OK, my choice will be to continue to enrich Amazon and Bezos and other wonderful on-line vendors. btw, I'm aware of certain local businesses where the owners and customers wear facemasks, no problem, just showing respect for others and, besides, what's the big deal? It will be behind us someday.
Pete Nowotny · July 21, 2020 at 7:38 am
More bullshit from Blackface Ralph. He is just like any other democrat, useless and full of hate.
badelectronics · July 21, 2020 at 7:25 am
@AmericanPatriot: So, you know something about the Stasi do you? So, how do you feel about the Feds in Portland?
badelectronics · July 21, 2020 at 7:21 am
@FlickerV: I think you hit the nail on the head.
FlickerV · July 21, 2020 at 5:37 am
Like most writers here, the author's tone shows he assumes y'all know that businesses should be able to use their employees like enslavers used to. Y'all should know that Virginia craps on workers and we like it that way. Y'all should know that if you work in a chicken plant in Virginia, well, you should be happy to earn your $12 and hour and die of COVID. I don't think he knows that there's a new majority in Virginia.
brandonj · July 20, 2020 at 9:50 pm
They're a little late to the game with regulation. Shouldn't they have done this 5 months ago?
Never let a good crisis go to waste. This pandemic has been used to screw more small businesses and middle class Americans more than the 2008 bailouts. Both parties are complicit - again.
AmericanPatriot · July 20, 2020 at 7:56 pm
They love their inner STASI.
But, they only do this when we allow them.
badelectronics · July 20, 2020 at 7:27 pm
DonkeyFarmer · July 20, 2020 at 4:10 pm
Democrats have only been in power for less than a year, and look at the damage they have already done. Now they want to further destroy businesses. Vote them all out in 2021 and demand Republicans repeal every single law that has been passed this year.
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