COVID-19

California adopts emergency workplace safety rules for COVID-19

Meghan McCarty Carino Nov 20, 2020
Heard on:
HTML EMBED:
COPY
A security guard checks a customer's temperature outside a retail store. Efforts to prevent virus transmission in the workplace are gaining steam. Sean Rayford/Getty Images
COVID-19

California adopts emergency workplace safety rules for COVID-19

Meghan McCarty Carino Nov 20, 2020
Heard on:
A security guard checks a customer's temperature outside a retail store. Efforts to prevent virus transmission in the workplace are gaining steam. Sean Rayford/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

California has become the fourth and largest state to adopt emergency workplace protections for COVID-19. Nearly 20 million workers in California will be protected by the new mandate, which includes requirements for face masks, physical distancing and reporting of outbreaks in the workplace.

Virginia, Michigan and Oregon have moved forward with similar plans, though such measures haven’t been legally required at the federal level. However, the Biden administration could change that.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, usually sets specific, enforceable rules for dealing with workplace dangers like hazardous chemicals and blood-borne diseases. But during the pandemic, the agency has declined to create a binding set of safety rules specific to COVID-19.

“There was no guidance anywhere, really,” said Maggie Robbins, a workplace safety advocate with the nonprofit Worksafe, which collaborated with California regulators on their new emergency rules.

“There’s no way we can control the broader circulation of COVID if we keep having outbreaks at workplaces,” she said.

Under the new emergency standard, California regulators will have new tools to enforce mask wearing and physical distancing, and employers will be required to investigate, report and test for potential outbreaks.

Robert Moutrie, of the California Chamber of Commerce, said that could unfairly burden employers as community spread surges.

“You may have no role in those cases appearing in your workplace, but you will be put under outbreak protocols,” he said.

Large clusters have been documented at meatpacking plants, garment factories and among farmworkers across the country, and the risk of workplace spread has increased as coronavirus cases mount.

Rebecca Reindel, director of occupational safety and health at the AFL-CIO, said the federal government should follow the lead of states like California.

“The virus doesn’t know boundaries,” she said. “You need national leadership to set those plans.”

The labor organization will be making recommendations to the Biden transition team for who should lead OSHA. President-elect Joe Biden has said he would move to create national workplace safety rules for COVID-19.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

How long will it be until the economy is back to normal?

It feels like things are getting better, more and more people getting vaccinated, more businesses opening, but we’re not entirely out of the woods. To illustrate: two recent pieces of news from the Centers for Disease Control. Item 1: The CDC is extending its tenant eviction moratorium to June 30. Item 2: The cruise industry didn’t get what it wanted — restrictions on sailing from U.S. ports will stay in place until November. Very different issues with different stakes, but both point to the fact that the CDC thinks we still have a ways to go before the pandemic is over, according to Dr. Philip Landrigan, who used to work at the CDC and now teaches at Boston College.

How are those COVID relief payments affecting consumers?

Payments started going out within days of President Joe Biden signing the American Rescue Plan, and that’s been a big shot in the arm for consumers, said John Leer at Morning Consult, which polls Americans every day. “Consumer confidence is really on a tear. They are growing more confident at a faster rate than they have following the prior two stimulus packages.” Leer said this time around the checks are bigger and they’re getting out faster. Now, rising confidence is likely to spark more consumer spending. But Lisa Rowan at Forbes Advisor said it’s not clear how much or how fast.

Read More

Collapse

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.