The COVID numbers keep getting better, but now we are hearing warnings over the last week that we may never reach herd immunity. Today I heard a report from the New York Times, relaying a report from the CDC, that in March eighteen residents of a nursing home in Kentucky who had been vaccinated were subsequently infected by a worker who had not been vaccinated. Two of the vaccinated residents died.
The CDC concluded that the vaccine was 86.5% effective against the variant that caused the outbreak.
And that case, in a nutshell, is why folks are still being asked to mask up in public. While the vaccine is highly effective at preventing death and severe disease, it is not one hundred percent effective. And for the vulnerable population that the virus can still attack, even after a vaccine, masks become a second layer of life-saving protection.
Which leads me to another interesting case that was recently broadcast by the United States Department of Labor. The Department recently fined a tax preparation business in Massachusetts more than $136,000 because it prohibited its workers and its customers from wearing masks while on the premises.
The business was so lax in its enforcement of health standards that it did not require social distancing and refused other safeguards like cleaning and barriers. I wonder if it prepared taxes based on 2013 tax law too?
According to the DOL, OSHA received a complaint that the business was not ensuring the safety of its employees and opened an investigation in March.
As a result of the investigation, OSHA determined that the requirement that employees and customers not wear masks was a violation of a statewide order in Massachusetts. That order mandated that businesses require employees and customers to wear masks.
OSHA also determined that the business failed to provide adequate ventilation, and it required employees to work within six feet of each other without acceptable barriers between them.
In addition, OSHA faulted the employer for not undertaking pre-shift screenings of employees, enhancing cleaning procedures, or taking other steps to prevent transmission of the virus.
The DOL found that the employer was not simply negligent in these failures, but rather that it willfully refused to follow the safety guidelines and ensure the health and well-being of its employees and customers.
The determination in the case came directly on the heels of OSHA implementing a “national emphasis program” in March to focus enforcement efforts on companies that put the largest number of workers at serious risk of contracting the virus.
It is likely not a coincidence that after that plan was put in place, we began to see infection rates decline or stay steady at lower rates from the high infection rates we witnessed just after the holidays.
The plan is designed to work in conjunction with the national effort to increase vaccinations in order to curb the spread of the infection through vulnerable workplaces as commercial activity begins to ramp up headed into the summer. With the likelihood of herd immunity decreasing, large efforts from employers to limit the spread of the virus have become a national focus.
For business owners, it appears that more of the burden of stopping the virus is going to be placed on their shoulders as the national effort to eradicate the pandemic continues to move forward.