United States President Donald Trump’s administration informed employers Friday - apart from the health care industry, emergency response, and correctional facilities - that they are dispensed from recording coronavirus cases among their workers, a decision that was met with alarm by public health advocates.
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As the COVID-19 disease is officially classified as a recordable illness, employers have the duty to inform the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) when a worker gets infected from exposure at work.
But the OSHA ruled that for now on, the majority of U.S. employers won’t be required to determine whether employees’ infections happened in the workplace unless there was “objective evidence,” or evidence “reasonably available to the employer,” for example if a group of people working next to each other got sick.
The federal agency justified its move saying employers “may have difficulty making determinations about whether workers who contracted COVID-19 did so due to exposures at work.”
But "if employers don’t have to try to figure out whether a transmission happened in the workplace, it could leave both them and the government in the dark about emerging hotspots in places like retail stores or meatpacking plants," HuffPost's Dave Jamieson reported Saturday.
“So all you infected bus drivers, grocery store clerks, poultry processors ― you didn’t get it at work,” the former deputy assistant secretary at OSHA, Jordan Barab, tweeted.
The new rules’ announcement comes as Trump’s Labor Department, managed by former corporate lawyer Eugene Scalia, is facing growing criticism over its business-friendly handling of the new coronavirus pandemic.
Scalia recently instructed the reduction of paid leave provisions and limited who can qualify for expanded unemployment benefits as the outbreak continues to cause unprecedented mass layoffs across the U.S.
As of Sunday, the U.S. has recorded over half a million cases and more than 20,000 deaths.