Permanent COVID-19 Workplace Safety and Health Standards Put in Place by Governor Northam

Governor Northam recently approved of permanent workplace safety and health standards to remain effective throughout the pandemic beginning January 27, 2021. The governor said, “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”. The newly approved permanent standards are similar to the emergency temporary rules established by Virginia last July with the same intention: to protect Virginia workers and hinder the spread of COVID-19. These standards ensure access to hand sanitizer, regular cleaning of common work spaces, and require all public-facing employees to wear masks. If you have employees or you are an employee, particularly a public-facing employee, you should see the permanent standards in its entirety here.

As of February 8, 2021, 32.6 million people in the U.S. have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Even with vaccinations steadily progressing in our communities, it is recommended that everyone, including those who are inoculated, continue to practice COVID-19 precautions. This is based on the fact that the vaccines, both of Moderna and Pfizer brands, were not required to confirm whether their vaccines help stop the transmission of COVID-19 between people. Also, it takes a couple weeks for your immune system to build up a defense against any virus, so it’s important to protect yourself and others during this time. In addition, there are new strains of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic, circulating in our communities, which adds another layer of uncertainty, especially given it is unclear how well the current vaccines will protect you against these new strains.

A lot has changed since March 16, 2020 when Virginia first went into a lockdown. We didn’t know what was going on or what to expect. The need to stay safe while continuing to work to provide for themselves and their family posed a significant challenge to many people. By June 2020, signs of reopening occurred and now at the end of the first month of 2021, we have vaccines and life is almost normal. While it became clear we could not be in lockdown mode forever, it also seems like the consensus is that COVID-19 is here to stay, at least for the near future. Thus, as we learn to continue to live with COVID-19, it is imperative that we continue to take precautions and follow the recommended guidelines by health experts, and as we each return to the workplace, it is reassuring to have the state’s standards in place.