Last Updated on January 30, 2021
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, who admitted to wearing either Ku Klux Klan robes or blackface in a medical school yearbook photo, has enacted the nation’s first permanent COVID-19 restrictions, issuing a long list of workplace regulations to be enforced statewide, including one that could force workers to wear masks or face coverings indefinitely.
The slate of restrictions, approved by Northam after being adopted by the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Safety and Health Codes Board, will govern everything from what the state calls “appropriate personal protective equipment” and social distancing, to records keeping, infectious disease preparedness, and the operation and maintenance of HVAC systems in publically and privately owned workplaces alike.
Employees who work in proximity to the general public will be required to wear masks at all times when social distancing measures cannot be observed.
Employees are also encouraged to report employers not living up to the new permanent standards to the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, which will be responsible for enforcing Northam’s orders.
The restrictions will remain in effect at least through the duration of Northam’s COVID-19 emergency order, with the Safety and Health Codes Board meeting within two weeks of its expiration to decide whether or not to leave the restrictions in place going forward.
As the restrictions are now enshrined permanently in the state’s workplace safety standards, even if they are lifted or lessened, they could be reinstituted at any time.
“While the end of this pandemic is finally in sight, the virus is still spreading, including several highly contagious variants, and now is not the time to let up on preventative measures,” Northam said in announcing the permanent restrictions.
“These standards will reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure and protect the health and safety of Virginia workers, consumers, and communities as we move our Commonwealth forward together.”
Workplace restrictions aren’t the only COVID-related change Virginia Democrats seem keen on maintaining for the long haul.
Last week, Democrat lawmakers in the state’s legislature passed a bill that will continue to allow for pre-paid postage and designated drop boxes for mail-in absentee ballots, as well as allow voters to “cure” errors discovered on their mail-in ballots after they have been received and opened by election officials.