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Health care worker groups push appeals court for a permanent standard on COVID-19

Photo: gorodenkoff/iStockphoto

Washington — The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on April 4 heard oral arguments on why it should order OSHA to issue a permanent standard on COVID-19 for the health care industry.

National Nurses United was among the labor groups that filed an emergency petition Jan. 5 after an emergency temporary standard for health care workers, issued in June, wasn’t made permanent. The groups argued that health care workers’ well-being is in grave danger without the protections provided by the ETS, and asked the court to retain it until a permanent standard can take its place.

“The impact of this pandemic has been borne disproportionately by the health care workers tasked with caring for those infected by this disease,” NNU Legal Director Nicole Daro told the court, according to an NNU press release. “Yet OSHA has left these very workers without necessary protections, despite a clear statutory mandate to protect workers in precisely this situation.”

The other petitioners: AFL-CIO; American Federation of Teachers; American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees; New York State Nurses Association; and Pennsylvania Association of Nurses and Allied Professionals.


On Feb. 25, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its COVID-19 guidance, introducing a three-tiered, color-coded “community level” system “to help communities decide what prevention steps to take based on the latest data.” Under the system, levels of transmission risk are designated as low (green), medium (yellow) or high (red), and are determined by looking at hospital beds being used, hospital admissions and the total number of new cases in an area.

Soon after the updated guidance was released, NNU called on CDC to reverse its decision, with union President Zenei Triunfo-Cortez claiming that the color-coded system “will create confusion and public distrust in what is safe and what is not.”

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