Workplace COVID safety weakened, just as omicron hits

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An interim health care workplace coronavirus protection standard has been allowed to expire, and employees and their representatives want protection reinstated—now.

Just as the omicron variant is spinning up a tsunami of new COVID cases across the country, an interim health care workplace coronavirus protection standard has been allowed to expire.

Yes, the timing alone seems a little shocking. And the expiration of the requirements—issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) last year—is confounding many feds, other workers and the organizations that represent them.

In response, they are suing the government.

Specifically, government and nongovernment health care employees and their representatives want protection reinstated—now. They’ve filed a motion in federal court to issue a writ of mandamus to force OSHA to either extend the temporary measure or issue a new and permanent health care workplace standard. They want one “aimed at protecting the life and health of millions of nurses and other frontline health care workers throughout the United States in grave danger from the deadly Covid-19 pandemic,” the group announced in a statement.

“The unions took this legal action after the Department of Labor failed to make permanent the emergency temporary standard (ETS) on Covid-19 that took effect on June 21, 2021,” the statement continued. “Without the protections of a permanent standard, the health and well-being of nurses, other health care workers, patients, and the general public is in grave danger.”

OSHA announced Dec. 27 that its June 2021 ETS protection measure would be rescinded. They had been in place for just about six months, the normal lifespan of emergency orders—but the government has the power to extend them.

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