CDC Updates Its COVID-19 Guidance – But Still No Word From OSHA

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

Thankfully, it has been quite a while since there has been a material update to discuss on the COVID-19 front.  Except for those of you in the healthcare space, things continue to be pretty quiet at OSHA on that front, but as I am sure you all have seen, a week ago, on August 11th, the CDC updated some of its COVID-19 guidance in a way that probably affects many employers’ COVID-19 protocols. 

The CDC’s new guidance, entitled Summary of Guidance for Minimizing the Impact of COVID-19 on Individual Persons, Communities, and Health Care Systems, scales back prior onerous recommendations for COVID-19 prevention strategies based on an acknowledgement in the guidance document that:

“with so many tools available to use for reducing COVID-19 severity, there is significantly less risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death compared to earlier in the pandemic.”

However, how the new guidance maps to workplaces is not a simple analysis.  As has been the case throughout the pandemic, trying to apply CDC’s guidance to general industry workplaces, when it is actually written for the general public or for specific sectors (most often public health agencies and healthcare) is not always intuitive, and often leads to conflicting and impossible outcomes.  Of course, that’s where OSHA is supposed to come in; i.e., to take CDC’s general guidance and explain for employers how it should apply in private industry workplaces.  But OSHA has not kept up with its duty in that regard.  Indeed, despite promises for more than five months that updated COVID-19 guidance was coming “soon,” OSHA has not chimed in about how it expects employers to map CDC’s general public guidance to the workplace since before the Delta variant struck.  So with that vacuum, here is our best take on the CDC’s updated guidance.

What Does CDC’s Updated COVID-19 Guidance Change?  Continue reading

Cal/OSHA Proposes “Permanent” COVID-19 Prevention Rule – Under Review By Its Advisory Committee

Cal/OSHA has just convened an Advisory Committee to consider a proposed permanent Cal/OSHA COVID-19 prevention permanent rule, scheduled to meet on September 23, 2021.  Conn Maciel Carey has been invited to serve on the Advisory Committee, on behalf of the California Employers COVID-19 Prevention Coalition – composed of a broad array of California and national employers substantially impacted by Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 standards.

Last Friday, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) posted the attached discussion draft for the proposed permanent rule.  If adopted, the permanent rule would expire in 2 years (subject to renewal/amendment) and replace the existing Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). We expect that upon the permanent rule sunsetting, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board might take up a permanent general infectious disease standard – which would be another battle to be waged.  There is a broad consensus among the employer community that a general infectious disease standard is unnecessary and ill advised, in light of the existing Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) and Aerosol Transmissible Diseases standards and the inability to prescribe specific measures to address pandemics that have yet to arise.

As many may recall, the ETS was hurriedly adopted around Thanksgiving last year and then amended in June 2021 following bizarre twists and turns, with the Standards Board reconsidering proposed text and votes faced with concerns the draft amendment was not aligned with CDC guidance and was otherwise unwieldy.  Ultimately, the Standards Board formed a subcommittee to consider the future of the ETS that has met regularly since June.

Big picture, the draft permanent rule is largely a significant improvement over the ETS but there are some areas of concern that we hope are addressed through the Advisory Committee process.  We have summarized how the draft permanent rule materially departs from the ETS: Continue reading