05.24.2021 0

Biden administration could reverse CDC mask guidance

Despite CDC mask guidance, Biden administration may still issue workplace mandate.

By Catherine Mortensen

According to Fox News, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may still issue a workplace mask mandate consistent with a January executive order from President Biden despite new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines that vaccinated Americans do not need to wear masks indoors.

Biden’s Jan. 21 executive order directed his administration to “consider whether any emergency temporary standards on COVID-19, including with respect to masks in the workplace, are necessary.” The order set a deadline of March 15, which was missed.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at the time that the White House was giving OSHA, which is housed in the Department of Labor, “time to get it right and time to ensure it’s right.”

Fox News  said it was expected that an emergency temporary standard (ETS) on mask-wearing and potential other coronavirus mitigation practices would eventually be approved. A draft ETS, which is not publicly available, was sent to the Office of Management and Budget for review in late April.

But CDC guidance earlier this month potentially changed the situation, with the health agency issuing what many saw as an unexpected reprieve for vaccinated individuals from strict public health measures.

A group of House Republicans on the Committee on Education and Labor sent a letter to Labor Secretary Marty Walsh on Monday asking him to put the brakes on any new workplace rules considering the proliferation of vaccines and the new CDC guidance.

“We write to express our strong disapproval of your decision to move forward with this ill-advised and unnecessary rulemaking,” the group wrote.

“Instead, we encourage DOL to continue working with CDC on COVID-19 guidance and update OSHA’s guidance to align with the latest science to ensure the nation’s economic recovery continues and Americans can continue to return to work,” the Republicans also said.

The Education and Labor Committee Republicans noted that “every worker in the United States is eligible for vaccination, and businesses have been authorized by federal and state governments to relax restrictions based on the latest science from the CDC.”

“It is therefore unlikely that DOL could demonstrate that COVID-19 is presently a grave danger to workers and that an ETS, which would place new mandates on employers that do nothing to improve workplace safety outcomes, is necessary to protect workers,” they said.

It is very rare for OSHA to issue an ETS – it hasn’t done so since 1983, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

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It seems impossible for the Biden administration’s messaging on Covid masks to get any more confusing. Americans already are dealing with total uncertainty about where and when they can go maskless. It’s a messaging nightmare. According to CDC guidelines, adults who are fully vaccinated can go maskless in church, while children between 2-12 who are not even eligible for a vaccine must continue to be masked up. Some businesses require masks, other make it optional. No one is really sure what the rules are.

OSHA’s new memo on workplace masks is sure to confuse more Americans and further erode what little trust we have in our federal leaders.

Catherine Mortensen is Vice President of Communications at Americans for Limited Government.

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