Utah, two others warned by Biden administration over COVID-19 rules

Coronavirus Updates

FILE – Salt Lake City (ABC4)

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Utah is one of three states to be warned by the U.S. Labor Department over their lack of certain COVID-19 rules. In response, Utah’s governor and lieutenant governor say they are “very disappointed.”

On Tuesday, the Biden administration threatened to revoke the authority for three Republican-controlled states – Utah, Arizona, and South Carolina – to handle their own workplace safety enforcement, the Associated Press reports. The threat comes because these states have not adopted rules to protect health care workers outlined by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

OSHA officials say these three states are not complying and enforcing standards at least as good as those adopted by the federal government, according to AP. The main rule, according to officials, is one requiring personal protective equipment, social distancing, and other safety measures for those working in health care with COVID-19 patients. Paid sick time is also required for employees who contract COVID-19, need to get the COVID-19 vaccine, or have side effects from the vaccine.

According to AP, OSHA gave up its authority to enforce workplaces safety laws and regulations for the private sector in 22 states – that includes Utah, Arizona, and South Carolina. These states are then required to enact rules as effective or better than those outlined by federal officials.

In response, Governor Spencer Cox and Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson released the below statment:

“We’re very disappointed in the U.S. Department of Labor’s assertion that Utah’s State Plan is less effective than the federal program. In a July 21, 2021 letter to Labor Secretary Walsh, the governors of Utah, Wyoming and Nebraska expressed concerns that the Healthcare ETS would place an unfair burden on the healthcare industry and noted that our states do not have regulatory authority to require employers to pay their employees sick leave.

“We reject the assertion that Utah’s State Plan is less effective than the federal plan. While we have not refused to adopt standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), we will ask once again for an opportunity to engage with the Biden administration about our legitimate concerns complying with the proposed Healthcare ETS. Despite today’s communication, we still welcome an opportunity to further explain our position and recommendations.” 

The Associated Press reports OSHA officials plan to take the first steps to revoke each state’s authority and reclaim jurisdiction for federal enforcers in the health care sector or others.

There has already been pushback from Utah lawmakers and elected leaders to the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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