On December 27, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) withdrew major parts of its Health Care Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). This ETS covered fire and EMS department’s operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a statement by OSHA, the agency intends to “to issue a final standard that will protect healthcare workers from COVID-19 hazards.” However, due to the fact that OSHA cannot meet the timeframe required by the Occupational Safety and Health Act, OSHA also announced “that it is withdrawing the non-recordkeeping portions of the healthcare ETS. The COVID-19 log and reporting provisions, 29 CFR 1910.502(q)(2)(ii), (q)(3)(ii)-(iv), and (r), remain in effect.”
In light of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and the spread of the Omicron variant, OSHA “strongly encourages all healthcare employers to continue to implement the ETS’s requirements in order to protect employees from a hazard that too often causes death or serious physical harm to employees…. OSHA will vigorously enforce the general duty clause and its general standards, including the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Respiratory Protection Standards, to help protect healthcare employees from the hazard of COVID-19. The Respiratory Protection Standard applies to personnel providing care to persons who are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19. OSHA will accept compliance with the terms of the Healthcare ETS as satisfying employers’ related obligations under the general duty clause, respiratory protection, and PPE standards.”
The IAFC urges its members to read the full statement and discuss OSHA’s change of policy with the relevant department health and safety personnel. We will keep you informed of updates.
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new recommendations for isolation and quarantine after exposure to COVID-19. The CDC recommended time for isolation for people with COVID-19 is reduced to five days, if asymptomatic, followed by five days of wearing a mask when around others.
In addition, the CDC is updating the recommended quarantine period for those exposed to COVID-19. “For people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose (or more than two months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for five days followed by strict mask use for an additional five days. Alternatively, if a five-day quarantine is not feasible, it is imperative that an exposed person wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure. Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure. For all those exposed, best practice would also include a test for SARS-CoV-2 at day five after exposure. If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19.”
Ken LaSala is the IAFC’s Director of Government Relations and Policy.