WASHINGTON (KTVZ) – As the rise of the Omicron variant continues to threaten the safety of our nation’s healthcare workers, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Joined his colleagues in a letter Wednesday calling on the Biden administration to continue and make the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s COVID-19 emergency protections for healthcare workers in Oregon and across the country.
“We are writing to urge you to move forward with a permanent, enforceable standard that would require employers to protect workers in health care settings and to keep emergency protections in place until. a permanent standard be issued, which should be accomplished as quickly as possible. Wyden and lawmakers wrote. “With the emergence and rapid spread of the Omicron variant, healthcare workers must now maintain strong and enforceable protections; these protections cannot expire. This is necessary to adequately respond to the emergency context of the current situation that healthcare workers are facing. “
The letter addresses OSHA’s announcement in late 2021 that it would allow the Temporary Emergency Standard (ETS) to expire, despite healthcare workers still facing serious safety concerns and to risks in the workplace.
Last June, OSHA released a Temporary Emergency Standard (STE) to protect workers who have suffered the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic and to provide clear standards detailing the responsibilities of healthcare employers to the safety of their workers.
The standard requires employers to identify and control the hazards of COVID-19 in the workplace, provide access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and adequate ventilation systems, and ensure that workers are informed of the workplace exposures to COVID-19. This standard also gave healthcare workers a tool to measure their workplace practices and a recourse to OSHA if they felt their workplace was non-compliant.
On December 27, six months after the enactment of the ETS, OSHA announced that it was not prepared to issue a permanent rule and that it would let unregistered portions of the temporary standard expire.
When OSHA released the ETS in June 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 491,816 health workers had contracted COVID-19 and 1,611 had died. Today, those numbers have nearly doubled, with the CDC reporting that 848,028 health workers across the country have contracted COVID-19. Without a permanent rule, the health and well-being of our country’s healthcare workers are at risk.
This letter is edited by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, DN.Y., and with Wyden is co-signed by Senators Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Sheldon Whitehouse, DR.I., Ed Markey, D-Mass., Chuck Schumer, DN . Y., Bob Menendez, DN.J., Alex Padilla, D-Calif., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Cory Booker, DN.J., Gary Peters, D-Mich., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. , Tim Kaine, D-Va., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., And Chris Murphy, D-Conn. MP Dingell led a similar letter to the House of Representatives, which has more than 100 co-signers.
To read the letter, please click here.