by Tyler Arnold


A Virginia board will meet Tuesday to consider changing or ending business regulations it introduced to curb the spread of COVID-19 during the pandemic, some of which have been confusing business owners.

Earlier this year, the Department of Labor and Industry established permanent regulations on businesses, which could only end or be changed through another meeting by the department’s Safety Health Codes Board. When the board adopted the regulations, it also added a provision that required it to meet within two weeks after the state of emergency for COVID-19 ended. The last day of the emergency declaration was June 30.

The rules were initially in line with Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive orders, but after the governor rescinded some of the requirements, the two standards seemed to contradict on certain issues. The governor requires some employees to wear masks if they are not fully vaccinated. The DOLI regulations require those employees to wear masks and make no mention of vaccinations, but later guidance stated vaccinated individuals were not required to wear masks.

Although DOLI’s guidance was updated, some businesses are still not sure that the guidance is consistent with the words written in the regulatory code, Robert Melvin, the director of government affairs at the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association told The Center Square.

Melvin said the language has continued to confuse business owners and their lawyers even amid DOLI’s reassurance. Ideally, Melvin said the board should rescind all of its rules, which he said have not been able to keep up with the science or recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

When dealing with a health pandemic, Melvin said it’s better for the CDC and the Virginia Department of Health to manage the regulations, rather than include more bureaucracy that isn’t equipped to handle these issues. Ideally, he urged the board to scrap all of its rules, but said they should at least trim it down to only enforcing OSHA’s rules.

The other rules, Melvin said, are also unnecessary.

DOLI’s rules also require that employers make sure employees are social distancing during breaks and put limits on access to breakrooms. The DOLI regulations also require certain training and reporting standards regarding COVID-19 and rules for sanitation and physical barriers.

Business groups were critical of the board’s decision to adopt permanent regulations from the beginning, arguing that they would be difficult to change when necessary.

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Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and West Virginia for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.