We are nearing the end of the academic year and much of the country is still operating in a work (and learn) from home environment. The Way pauses during Teacher Appreciation Week to commend the teachers going beyond for all of our students—we give our thanks to you! This week, we take a closer look at some of the ongoing steps towards workplace re-occupancy, and applaud some of the inspiring teachers who have influenced us along the way.
AN INVESTMENT IN EDUCATION
In a letter to top lawmakers in Congress, a leading council of the nation’s largest school districts seeks $202 billion in relief after schools were forced into emergency action by the coronavirus pandemic. The money would be used in a variety of ways, with the goal of preventing schools from taking drastic measures, including teacher layoffs. We are comparing notes on the next phase of federal pandemic relief.
TORTS: PROFESSOR RALPH BRILL
At the same time, Republican leaders in both houses of Congress have signaled that they will not support a fifth coronavirus bill unless it provides liability protections for employers. More than 300 business groups representing a cross-section of industries are urging Congress to shield companies from coronavirus-related lawsuits. Leading industry groups also posted a letter to congressional leadership this week, calling for the businesses that have been kept open and operational during the coronavirus pandemic to be shielded from tort liability. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) indicated that the GOP-controlled Senate won’t pass a bill providing more assistance to state and local governments if it doesn’t include essential business liability shield language.
FEDERALISM: PROFESSOR RICHARD MICHAEL
The United States Supreme Court, through Justice Samuel Alito, compelled Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D-PA) to respond to a pleading that seeks to end the shutdown of all non-essential business activity in the Keystone State. The case argues that Governor Wolf's shutdown orders are unconstitutional. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that closures were justified by the powers allowed to a governor in a state of emergency. The petitioners argue that the shutdown orders violate their rights to business and property protected under the First, Fifth, and 14th Amendments. In other Supreme Court news this week, the justices held their first hearings with telephonic oral arguments. For anyone listening to arguments from home, the Chief Justice will initiate questions to litigants before the Court, but then the justices will ask questions in order of their seniority. We’re keeping our ear on the line for the resolution of this pending state and federal issue.
ADMINISTRATIVE LAW: PROFESSOR ALLEN SHOENERGER
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an alert with safety guidance for restaurants, and food and beverage businesses to protect their workers from coronavirus exposure while they provide curbside pickup and takeout service. OSHA recommends businesses implement a series of changes to avoid direct hand-offs, allow workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth, and provide places to wash hands and alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol.
ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR: BILL WEBB, PhD
In related news, OSHA translated and published its “Ten Steps All Workplaces Can Take to Reduce Risk of Exposure to Coronavirus” poster in 11 additional languages. The poster was originally available in English and Spanish, and highlights 10 infection prevention measures every employer should implement to protect workers' safety and health during the coronavirus pandemic. Back here in Illinois, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) issued community guidance to organizations opening for business this month. The IDPH has created a new poster for display in Illinois workplaces during the pandemic. We’ll report back on further behavior modifications, as more and more business prepare for re-occupancy.
Federal Regulatory Guidance
CHEMISTRY: JOHN VAN WIEL, CSV
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released guidance on nearly 400 products that have qualified to be effective against the virus that causes COVID-19. The agency also published an overview related to disinfection against the novel coronavirus. The EPA warns all users to never touch, ingest, or treat food with any disinfectant product on the chemical inventory known as “List N.” The EPA warns against preventable and hazardous chemical collisions that can occur by mixing these reasonably dangerous products, unless specified in the directions.
DRIVER’S EDUCATION: ART HILLENBERG
Speaking of collisions, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) unveiled its permanent Crash Preventability Determination Program. This move will make permanent and expand upon a pilot program that evaluated the effects of not counting a crash in which a motor carrier was not at fault when calculating the carrier’s safety measurement profile. This program will completely remove crashes determined preventable from a carrier’s safety management system prioritization algorithm. All crashes will still be listed on the FMCSA website, but they will include a notation indicating the crash was reviewed and the result of the review. Crashes deemed not-preventable will be noted on a driver’s Pre-employment Screening record.
Making Our Way Around the Country
GOVERNMENT: JIM WALLACE
In California, the coronavirus pandemic will delay by two years the Golden State’s most expensive ballot battle leading into November's general election. The proposal would raise the limit for damages for pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits from the $250,000 cap set in 1975 to more than $1.2 million, with continued increases to keep up with inflation. Proponents will delay the campaign until 2022 because of the uncertainty prompted by the pandemic. Of note, supporters of the measure collected 988,000 signatures, above the 623,000 signatures required, but will deliberately delay submitting them until after the filing deadline for this November election.
ECONOMICS: GORDON WHITING
In Colorado, lawmakers suspended efforts to advance a bill that would create a public health insurance option. The prime backers of House Bill 1349 say the pandemic has made it impossible to ensure that all of the relevant stakeholders, including hospitals, doctors, and insurance companies, to engage with the lawmaking process. Democrats pushing for the measure urge that the pandemic highlights the need for the public option, which was planned to be a private insurance plan with hospital prices and other strict regulations set by the state. Party leaders also cite that budget cuts related to the economic impacts of coronavirus would make passage of the state’s public option legislation too difficult this year.
BIOPHYSICS: SUSAN MULRONEY, PhD
Staying in the Centennial State, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued an urgent request for more medical professionals to donate their time to provide telehealth for free. The state's COVID-19 online landing page states, “Colorado urgently needs medical professionals and administrators to donate their time to provide free telehealth visits. This work will be performed entirely from home, primarily via telephone and/or video calls. Callers will provide their symptoms over the phone, and those who need medical attention will be triaged to a queue for telephone-based care.” We’re tracking the expansion of telehealth applications through the pandemic and beyond.
LATIN: LANETTA WARRENBURG
Nil sine numine, or “nothing without providence,” is the state motto of Colorado, the would-be site of this week’s Annual Conference and Exhibition of the Risk Management Society (RIMS). While we certainly do miss running to and from the educational sessions and seeing so many of you in the Exhibition Hall, we applaud the thoughtful and prudent risk management decisions to keep all of us safe this year. In the meantime, we’ve got a slate of thought leadership webinars going on this week in a series called, “Think Ahead. Think Gallagher Bassett.” For more information on these engaging educational sessions, please click here. Stay safe, stay well, and stay connected.