Professor: Tens of thousands of vulnerable workers died, now OSHA's "sound regulations" will save lives in pandemic

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will release new guidelines for businesses next week. In a January executive order, Biden gave the agency a March 15 deadline to decide whether mandatory safety rules were necessary to protect workers from the coronavirus. Has a government agency ever taken a pass on handing down new restrictions on businesses during a Democrat administration?

Many governors and local officials are in process of opening up their states after a year of lockdowns so what better time for the government to step in and stomp on these actions? Last night during his address to the nation on the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus in the United States, Biden paid lip service to business owners who have lost their business during the pandemic. He didn’t mention that OSHA would meet its deadline imposed through an executive order by Biden during his second day in the Oval Office. The new guidelines on how businesses will be required to operate during the pandemic are supposed to be temporary. Unfortunately, we know that it is rare for any action by the government to be temporary. Businesses should brace for what is coming as they try to get back on their feet. It is reported that Democrats and unions have asked for these regulations since the pandemic began. Joe Biden never met a union he didn’t want to appease.

The regulations are intended to protect workers from COVID-19. OSHA hasn’t issued an emergency temporary standard since 1983, for reference.

The emergency regulation is expected to mandate at least the CDC and OSHA guidelines — which recommend that workers wear masks and maintain six feet of distance, even after vaccination — as well as other specific steps employers must take to protect their workers from coronavirus exposure.

Masks and social distancing are already being done by most businesses. OSHA is expected to make the requirements that masks be of a higher grade, for example, like N95, and upgrading ventilation systems. You see where this is going – additional financial costs for businesses that are already struggling to hold on until they can fully reopen again. There will be enforcement and auditing by OSHA, too, with Congress providing additional funding for that. Democrats dedicated $75 million for OSHA in their stimulus that Biden signed into law on Thursday. Owners will face fines if they do not comply.

“Without an [emergency temporary standard], it is very difficult for OSHA to require employers to implement preventive measures,” David Michaels, the former OSHA chief during the Obama administration, told lawmakers on Thursday. “If workplace exposures are not controlled, more workers — along with members of their families and communities — will be infected, causing more illness and death, and threatening the ability of the nation to resume economic growth.”

Additional mandates beyond the current recommendations may be in the offing: At the hearing where Michaels appeared, health and safety experts urged the CDC to recognize in guidance that the virus can be spread through aerosols, as opposed to larger droplets.

Pascaline Muhindura, a registered nurse affiliated with the National Nurses United union, advocated for this during the hearing Thursday, telling lawmakers that the hospital where she worked failed to provide her and her coworkers with appropriate protective equipment, which “led to many Covid-19 infections and ultimately the death of one of my coworkers.”

That’s right, employers are being blamed for having blood on their hands. When Biden began his speech last night, you may remember he took a swipe at Trump without actually saying his name and essentially accused him of having blood on his hands, too. “A year ago, we were hit with a virus that was met with silence and spread unchecked. Denials for days, weeks, then months that led to more deaths, more infections, more stress, and more loneliness.” A public health professor took it a step further and says “tens of thousands” were lost due to a lack of regulations.

“It would have been better if it had come half a year ago,” said Lawrence Gostin, a public health professor at Georgetown Law, who told POLITICO that the coming regulations are “ethically essential.” “We could have saved tens of thousands of lives of vulnerable workers, but even now there are many lives we can save through sound regulation of workplace environments”

This will affect red states more quickly than most blue states since few blue states are making moves to fully reopen yet. Some blue states like New York are relaxing their restrictions now. What the Biden administration will put forward is the opposite of how the Trump administration handled the pandemic. That is by design, of course, as Biden is determined to be the anti-Trump leader, whether the Trump policies were working or not. It is petty and it will likely be destructive for many businesses, then our country’s economic recovery in general. Most businesses are keeping mask mandates in place for the time being even in states which are now fully open. New federal regulations will likely come into conflict with state regulations, too.

“I think that’s gonna be the big concern,” said Larry Lynch, senior vice president of science and industry at the National Restaurant Association. “Cost there is going to be a significant factor.”

The mismatch between federal recommendations and state rules has some business groups taking a cautious approach as well. The National Restaurant Association says it’s not quite ready to roll back its recommendations on masks.

“As we look across the spectrum of the U.S. and not really knowing exactly when things are going to change state by state, we’re still going to recommend that restaurants require face masks for employees and require them for guests except for the guests who are eating,” said Lynch of the NRA.

Democrats believe in a big government solution to most situations. Republicans believe in individuals and personal responsibility. This is how it has always been. A one-size-fits-all list of more government regulations isn’t going to help businesses across the country get back to a more normal way of operating.