Written by DON THOMPSON, Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, California (AP) – California lawmakers at work on Thursday extended mandatory pay for workers affected by the coronavirus until the end of 2022, taking action more than two months after state lawmakers renewed by September similar benefits.
The decision was again opposed by the management of labor, as the Committee on Safety and Health at Work renewed the revised rules on safety at work, which would otherwise expire in early May.
“I don’t think we’re done with that yet,” CEO David Thomas said of the pandemic.
“There will be an increase in a week or so,” Thomas added. “That’s the best … protection we have.”
Laura Stock, an occupational safety representative on the board, reiterated advocates for employees who lobbied board members to continue special protection for workers, even though health officials are easing masks, quarantine and other demands for the general public.
Unlike citizens who can choose their own risk tolerance, Stock said, “people who are in the workplace … have no choice but to be there.”
Board spokeswoman Kate Crawford said the rules were confusing as she gave the only “no” by 6 to 1.
Maintaining so-called “exclusion pay” for workers sent home because of coronavirus is costly and confusing, especially since the legislature recently granted sick leave because of COVID-19, said Rob Moutrie, a policy advocate at the California Chamber of Commerce. ,
Small businesses in particular have struggled with the obligation, Moutrie said. The Cal / OSHA rule applies to almost every job in the country, which includes workers in offices, factories and retail companies, while the state sick leave law only applies to companies with 26 or more employees.
The debate comes when a highly portable version of omicron BA.2 becomes prevalent in California and across the U.S., threatening a new wave of infections.
The incidence rate in the country has increased by one third, and the positivity of tests has doubled since the end of March. Hospitalizations and intensive care patients remain at or near the pandemic. But state models predict that the number of hospitalizations will increase from less than 1,000 now to nearly 1,400 next month, while the number of intensive care admissions will begin to increase in early May.
As another sign of California’s changing response to the pandemic, public health officials are revoking a government contract with diagnostic company PerkinElmer Health Sciences Inc. from May 15 ahead of schedule. The company operated a new state-owned testing laboratory at COVID in Valencia, worth $ 25 million, which opened in November 2020, under a no-bid contract that was originally worth up to $ 1.4 billion. In October, the state renewed the agreement.
Republican state lawmakers welcomed the cancellation, citing recurring problems reported at the facility, including delays in testing and quality control.
“This lab didn’t serve the Californians and the state has been procrastinating with responsibility for months,” Senate Republican leader Scott Wilk said.
State health officials said Thursday that they now rely more on a different form of testing and effort to link positive test results to immediate treatment. However, they said the state will maintain the ability to test up to 500,000 people a day through a network of laboratories as part of a national plan to respond quickly to future coronavirus outbreaks.
Los Angeles County said Thursday it will continue to require masks for passengers on public transportation and domestic transportation hubs, including Los Angeles International Airport and other airports, along with bus and train stations.
Also on Thursday, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and LA District Attorney George Gascón announced two settlements totaling nearly $ 26.5 million over allegations of counterfeit testing at COVID-19 and fraudulent advertising by California-based Sameday Technologies. operates as Sameday Health, which manages 55 testing sites nationwide.
Sameday Health said the problems arose “during the chaos of a huge increase in demand for services” at the start of the pandemic, but said it has fixed the problems since then.
The recast Workplace Regulation requires employers to continue to pay wages and maintain working lives and other benefits until they are able to work due to coronavirus exposure or infection, unless they receive disability benefits or the employer can demonstrate that close contact was not related to in part.
“It is important that employees infected with COVID-19 do not come to work,” Cal / OSHA said.
The state sick leave law differs in that it provides employees with up to one week of paid leave if they become ill with coronavirus or care for a sick family member. The second week of leave is only eligible if they or their family members are positive.
There is a worrying provision in the revised Cal / OSHA paid leave rules that is not in the current regulations, said Mitch Steiger, a legislative advocate for the California Labor Union.
Currently, they are also sending home an employee who has been in close contact with an infected worker. But changed rules can keep them at work until they are positive.
“An employer could force this person to stay in the workplace and communicate with co-workers, members of the public and immunocompromised people and with whom until that person is positive,” Steiger said before the board’s decision.
“The further we go back, the more room we give the virus to spread,” he said.
Farm officials objected that workplace rules give employers two options when faced with an outbreak of three or more cases of coronavirus if an employee comes into close contact. The employee must be negative for the test or be paid a week off if he refuses the test.
“You encourage people not to get tested,” Michael Miiller, director of government relations at the California Wine Growers Association, told the board.
Associated Press writer Stefanie Dazio from Los Angeles contributed to this story.
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