The status of the OSHA workplace standard for COVID is unclear.

The status of the OSHA workplace standard for COVID is unclear. Paul Yeung/Bloomberg

Coronavirus Roundup: The Future of the OSHA Standard to Protect Healthcare Workers from COVID is Unclear

There’s a lot to keep track of. Here’s a list of this week’s news updates and stories you may have missed.

Since the end of 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been working on a permanent standard to protect healthcare workers from the coronavirus, following the expiration of its temporary one. But with the ending of the COVID-19 emergencies, where does that leave things?

“As the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] updates its guidance, OSHA will review any effect it might have on its guidance and rulemaking, including the rule currently under interagency review at [the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs],” a spokesperson for the Labor Department, which houses OSHA, told Government Executive earlier this week. The final rule for the standard has been at OIRA since December. 

Bloomberg Law reported in January that worker and business groups were sharing their concerns with the White House that the standard was either too broad or didn’t cover enough. Back in the fall, House Republicans called on the Biden administration to cease promulgation of the standard, arguing “it is overdue for Washington bureaucrats to stop using the pandemic as a pretense to increase top-down federal control over the workplace.”

Jordan Barab, who served as OSHA deputy assistant secretary from 2009-2017 and was previously a big advocate for the standard, told Government Executive this week that health workers definitely need to be protected against COVID-19 and other diseases, “but OSHA would better put its efforts into the comprehensive infectious disease standard that they launched in 2009, that would protect healthcare workers against all infectious diseases.” Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

On Thursday, the Supreme Court dismissed a Title 42 case on its docket as the policy was lifted last week when the COVID-19 public health emergency ended. At the center of the case was whether a group of Republican state attorneys general could intervene to defend the policy. The justices sent the case back to the lower courts with instructions to declare it moot. 

The federal government’s landlord needs to do more on its planning efforts for post pandemic office space, the Government Accountability Office said in a report published on Thursday on its open recommendations. The General Services Administration agreed with GAO’s initial recommendation on this and has taken some action, such as sharing broadly information on space utilization data. “However, GSA does not have a process to determine whether efforts to publicize this information are reaching agencies that do not use GSA’s services,” the report said. “To fully implement this recommendation, GSA needs to develop processes and procedures to ensure all federal agencies, including those that do not typically use GSA space or portfolio-planning services, are aware of the costs and benefits of various methods and technologies for collecting space utilization data.” 

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