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New Challenges Continue in Worker Protections

Key Points:

  • In today’s Recommendations for Industry, we discuss TAG’s Weekly Matrix, the status of COVID-19 Cases, and what that means. Read more below.
  • Do you want to know when different sectors of the food and agriculture world can be vaccinated? Food manufacturing versus food service versus food retail (grocery)? We have put together a spreadsheet for every state, divided by food-worker type that will be updated weekly. Find the latest update (from Monday March 08, 2021) here.
  • Are you eligible to receive a vaccine but can’t get an appointment? There is a new service, called Dr. B that allows individuals to be put on a standby list for leftover COVID-19 vaccines. Sign up here.
  • NYT reports that on Monday, Italy surpassed 100,000 reported coronavirus deaths and is facing a large influx of infections driven by new variants. Additionally, Greece has seen the highest daily total of cases (3,215 on Tuesday, in 24 hours) since its second lockdown.
  • Disneyland in California will reopen in late April in a limited capacity.
  • China has launched a new version of a COVID-19 “health certificate” that is accessed through WeChat for international travelers, a digital vaccine passport. This health certificate (either paper or digital version) will track a citizens’ medical history when traveling abroad or coming in. The US and EU are also planning similar things.
  • As we briefly discussed fake vaccines being shipped from China to South Africa, on Monday, VICE now reports that the EU is experiencing its own influx of fake vaccines with up to “a billion fake COVID-19 vaccines have[ing] been offered to EU countries”. Authorities are worried that stalled vaccination efforts throughout the EU will only further exacerbate the situation.
  • A recent MMRW finds that “obesity [with higher BMIs] increases the risk for severe COVID-19–associated illness”.
  • A recent NPR study finds that Instagram’s suggested posts to users, especially throughout the pandemic, were pointed towards COVID-19 falsehoods.

Recommendations for Industry

New Challenges Continue in Worker Protections

It has now been more than a year since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, but the industry is continuing to face worker-protection challenges. Even as vaccines become more widely dispensed, states reopen, and the decline in U.S. case rates stabilizes, we are seeing cases resurging in parts of Europe, as well as Brazil and India.  Whether this is due to a rise in variants in those areas, changes in people's behavior, or that fewer people have immunity in those areas, is unknown, but the same could happen here.

For that reason, TAG continues to recommend that businesses maintain COVID worker protections … and it seems that OSHA agrees, as it has launched a new program to protect high-risk workers and focus on employers that retaliate against workers with safety concerns. To enforce this, OSHA is enhancing its inspections of businesses.

So now is not the time to back off anything; the potential consequences of lessening protections distinctly outweigh any benefits. However, now is the time to developing your strategy for backing off in anticipation of declining case rates as vaccination rates increase. Determining your criteria for a step-by-step approach to loosening restrictions, and setting a strategy will enhance the buy-in and understanding of your workers as they will see that things are not just being changed at random, but have logic behind them.

We will continue to provide considerations and tips to assist in your strategizing as we continue to chart the status of case rates, transmission rates, and vaccination levels – and keep you informed of it all.

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