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Requirement or Recommendation: How Should Virginia Guide Businesses Reopening Amid COVID-19?


Businesses across Virginia are reopening, although state leaders are at odds over what kind of requirements they should be facing.

Should people who weld steel at a shipyard be six feet apart? What about people who work at a poultry processing plant?

Kim Bobo at the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy says Virginia needs to make requirements of shipyards and poultry processing plants rather than just suggesting things.

“When you do that you basically give employers a green light to do whatever they want if possible if feasible, and they can all say we looked at it and it’s not possible so we don’t want to do it, and we’re not doing it," she explains. "That is not adequate to protect workers. We have to have an enforceable standard.” 

Business leaders are opposed to the state mandating what kind of precautions are taken in the workplace to prevent COVID-19.

“We feel it doesn’t make a lot of sense to impose a one-size fits all static regulation for an evolving situation," says Hobey Bauhan at the Virginia Poultry Federation. “I think we’ve been pretty successful in Virginia in addressing this extreme challenge and that we just need to be careful about imposing regulations that could have adverse economic consequences.”

The Virginia Health and Safety Board is currently debating whether to require health precautions or suggest them as best practices.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.