Governor Ralph Northam has rescinded most mask requirements for fully-vaccinated people and is expected to end all social distancing and capacity restrictions on Friday, but Virginia’s GOP candidates for governor, attorney general, and lieutenant governor are calling for an end to the state of emergency and COVID-19 workplace safety regulations.
“Governor Northam’s consistently poor leadership has resulted in Virginia employers being left in limbo, caught between following CDC guidance and complying with the more onerous requirements put in place by the governor’s Health and Safety Codes Board,” Glenn Youngkin, Jason Miyares, and Winsome Sears said in a joint statement Monday.
Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Cooperative Programs Director Jennifer Rose told The Virginia Star that with the change in CDC guidelines, fully-vaccinated employees in most non-healthcare settings are no longer required to wear face coverings or physically distance under COVID-19 safety standards for businesses from the Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI).
The lengthy standards include rules for handling COVID-19 in the workplace, social distancing, sanitation, and mask requirements public-facing employees. A temporary version went into effect last August. In January, Northam approved the Permanent COVID-19 Workplace Safety and Health Standards.
According to an FAQ, the permanent standards focus on employer compliance with CDC guidelines, allowing for flexibility as CDC guidelines change. The rest of the standards remain applicable. People are considered fully-vaccinated two weeks after receiving their final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Rose said the permanent standards remain in place at least until Northam ends the state of emergency.
“We have until 14 days after the end of the state of emergency to reconvene with our Safety and Health Codes Board to determine if there’s still a need for the standards and we’ll go from there,” Rose said.
“The state of emergency in Virginia will remain in place at least through June 30 to provide flexibility for local government and support ongoing COVID-19 vaccination efforts. Governor Northam will take executive action to ensure individuals have the option to wear masks up to and after that date,” a Northam press release said earlier in May.
Youngkin, Miyares, and Sears want Northam to end the state of emergency now.
They said, “There is no reason for Virginia to be out of step with the latest guidance, but that’s where we are today because of the regime in Richmond and its unchecked, unfounded edicts. It’s time to open Virginia back up and get our economy moving again.”
The candidates link Northam’s policies to his predecessor and potential successor Terry McAuliffe, painting a dire picture of business harms that extend beyond COVID-19 regulations.
“In April, more than twice as many people dropped out of the labor force in Virginia than the number that went back to work,” they said. “Our Commonwealth is not heading in the right direction, and it’s clear that if we get stuck with a third term of the McAuliffe-Northam Administration, Virginia’s Right to Work will be taken away and the mountain of government red tape that is holding back growth will get even bigger.”
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