Northern Virginia Chamber Comments on §16 VAC 25-220
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed Permanent Standard for COVID for Infectious Disease Prevention: SARS-CoV-2 Virus That Causes COVID-19, 16VAC25-220. Our membership remains concerned, as we were in July with the temporary standard, that the regulation is overly burdensome and that regulators have not followed an appropriately public process for its development. The Northern Virginia Chamber is also a member of the Virginia Business Coalition and would like to associate our organization with the comments the Coalition has submitted separately.
The novel nature of COVID-19 means the scientific consensus of how to reduce the spread has changed over time and will continue to change. In the short 7 months this country has dealt with COVID, only handwashing and social distancing have remained at the fore of recommended prevention methods – not even the ubiquitous mask-wearing we see in Northern Virginia was recommended in the first several weeks. However, this regulation becoming permanent ignores the potential for changing science, which does not make people safer but places a massive burden on businesses. Making it permanent also ignored the many problems with the temporary standard as laid out in detail in the Coalition’s comments.
We would ask that should you proceed with the adoption of a permanent standard, you make the following changes:
- Please remove 16VAC25-220-50 B.1.b. - Requiring all existing buildings in the Commonwealth to upgrade their HVAC systems to the latest standard, instead of when replacing or in new buildings which is the standard process for building code updates.
- Please remove any reference to sick leave. While the regulation attempts to provide clarity and specificity in regards to health and safety of employees, the references to sick leave policies are vague and not in concert with the rest of the regulation. Employers are already bound by the federal law referenced in the regulation – the Families First Coronavirus Response Act – and this is not an appropriate method to enforce a federal law
- Please return to the language originally drafted providing safe harbor to employers following federal guidance. Businesses have operated under CDC and OSHA guidance since March and should be recognized for keeping people safe during that time.
- Additionally, please address the process, substantive, business impact, and other concerns raised by the Virginia Business Coalition
This regulation should sunset at the expiration of Gov. Northam’s Executive Order as stipulated in the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). We would argue that the expiration will allow regulators to assess the current science at that time and allow the Administration to truly engage with all stakeholders to see what changes are necessary to keep people safe and keep businesses open. It would also allow for the many concerns the business community has raised to be addressed
As I said in my comments in June, the Northern Virginia Chamber has a long history of working with Virginia leaders to create good public policy. The process for this regulation continues to preclude the ability for collaboration between all stakeholders. We implore you to reconsider adoption of a permanent standard and instead allow the ETS to remain as previously adopted and direct regulators to work with stakeholders to address concerns in the ETS. We stand ready to work with the Northam Administration and the General Assembly on ways to protect employees and customers as Virginia continues to reopen its economy safely. Thank you.
President & CEO
Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce