Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Labor and Industry
Safety and Health Codes Board
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2/18/22  2:21 pm
Commenter: DFS employee

Mask Continuation in State Workplaces and Courthouses

Throughout the pandemic, many state employees, including myself, have been at work, in-person, handling biological materials from COVID and non-COVID-infected persons, and have been traveling to other sites for work. In my case, I have been required to be at work where distancing is not always possible and have to travel amongst 12 different jurisdictions, all of which have had varying degrees of adherence to vaccine and mask rules. Part of my job requires going to courthouses and interacting with the public, law enforcement, attorneys, and other court officials, all of which I have continued to do since courts reopened in July 2020. I strongly believe that court business has been able to continue with minimal disruptions due to the requirements of masks, particularly in some of the older, less spacious facilities. Masks are a precaution, meaning they are designed to minimize and mitigate spread. Since COVID-19 is caused by virus particles spread through the air (talking, coughing, sneezing, etc.) as well as through some surface transmission, the use of masks stops salivary particles from spreading from an infected person, as well as from touching their mouths (which people do a lot more than they realize) then touching other people or objects. Masks are not 100% effective, as nothing ever is, but they have proven to be a strong tool in minimizing the spread of COVID in public places when used correctly.

While I am not against the eventual lifting of mask requirements, I believe they should be in place for at least a few more months until the the data conclusively show that extremely dangerous variants are nearly gone and that hospitalizations are well below a manageable level. And even then, counties should retain the power to reinstitute masks when the data show increases in COVID-related hospitalizations. Additionally, worker protections should be in place so that those who do become ill are not forced to choose between going to work and infecting others, or staying home and protecting their coworkers and the public at large. Sure, masks are not the most comfortable, but utilizing masks has helped me and countless others continue to do our jobs and serve the citizens of the Commonwealth while also keeping ourselves and our families safe. This shouldn't be a political issue or one of "let's get things back to normal" (whatever you believe "normal" to be). This is about caring for our communities and following the consensus of unbiased scientific data to make sound decisions for the benefit of the public. 

CommentID: 119579