On March 22, 2022, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it had partially reopened the comment period for its permanent standard to protect health care and health care support workers from exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace.
Our colleagues Susan Gross Sholinsky, Lauri F. Rasnick, Jennifer Barna, Gretchen Harders, Nathaniel M. Glasser, and Nancy Gunzenhauser Popper of Epstein Becker Green have recently published an Act Now Advisory that will be of interest to our readers: "EEOC Updates Guidance on COVID-19 Vaccination Policies, Including Mandates, Incentives, and Accommodations."
The following is an excerpt:
Across the nation, authorities are scrambling to meet the new challenges posed by COVID-19. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) has recommended that individuals remain six feet apart in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. On March 13, 2020, the White House proclaimed a national emergency and many State governments have ordered non-essential businesses to close, and residents to self-distance. However, these emergency measures conflict with the rules for personal service of process established by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4.
Personal service of process is among the oldest and commonest means by which a court can obtain personal jurisdiction over a defendant. F.R.C.P. 4(e) provides that personal service of process can be accomplished by handing the process papers to the defendant personally or leaving the papers with a responsible person at the defendant’s dwelling.
In most cases, personal service involves the physical act of handing papers from one person to another. The very act of accomplishing personal service therefore violates the CDC’s recommendation that individuals remain six feet apart. However, it can also run contrary to more stringent restrictions imposed by State governments.
While providers struggle to provide health care to their patients amid the coronavirus contagion concerns, recent regulatory and reimbursement changes will help ease the path to the provision of healthcare via telehealth.
On March 6, 2020, President Donald Trump signed into law an $8.3 billion emergency coronavirus disease 2019 (“COVID-19”) response funding package. In addition to providing funding for the development of treatments and public health funding for prevention, preparedness, and response, the bill authorizes the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar (referred to herein as the “Secretary”), to waive Medicare restrictions on the provision of services via telehealth during this public health emergency.
Greater utilization of telehealth during the COVID-19 outbreak will reduce providers’ and patients’ exposure to the virus in health care facilities. Telehealth is especially useful for mild cases of illness that can be managed at the patient’s home, thereby decreasing the volume of individuals seeking care in facilities. To further facilitate the increased utilization of telehealth, the Centers for Disease Control’s interim guidance for healthcare facilities notes that healthcare providers can communicate with patients by telephone if formal telehealth systems are not available. This allows providers to have greater flexibility when telehealth technology providers lack the bandwidth to accommodate this increase in telehealth utilization or are otherwise unavailable.
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 is now a pandemic. The effects continue to be felt in the United States, which now has well over 1,000 confirmed novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases. As of March 12, 2020, nineteen states have declared a state of emergency to ensure there are resources to address the Coronavirus, and President Trump has announced a ban on travel to and from Europe for 30 days starting on Friday, March 13, 2020. Given the prevalence of the Coronavirus in the U.S. and the growing numbers of cases globally, health care providers should take extra precaution with their patients, employees, and visitors. As all public health communications are making clear, efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 will not only prevent illness, but they will also reduce the pandemic’s potential to overwhelm critical health care resources.
This advisory provides guidance for health care providers in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our best practices for all employers can be found here and here, and all businesses should visit our Coronavirus Resource Center.
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