Just as many of you are, Aim is concerned with the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the effect it has on our communities. City and town government plays a role in maintaining public health, balancing the need to give citizens accurate information without creating unnecessary panic. However, we know you need to be proactive. You are also an employer who needs to understand all obligations, risks, policies, etc., relative to human resources and COVID-19.
Recent Executive Orders from Governor Holcomb
Throughout the Covid pandemic, Governor Holcomb has extended the public health emergency in the allowable 30 day increments. On September 30, 2021, the Governor signed Executive Order 21-26, the nineteeth renewal of the public health emergency extending the emergency until October 31, 2021. In addition, Governor Holcomb signed Executive Order 21-27: Further Continuation of Limited Provisions to Address the Impact and Spread of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) on September 30.
Near the start of the public health emergency, Executive Order 20-09 gave local units of government the authority to hold public meetings and hearings virtually, where members of the governing body and the public could participate fully via electronic communications.
With the recent passage of HEA 1437, however, the new statutory provision for virtual meetings when under emergency order have kicked in. The new provision is in IC 5-14-1.5-3.7, which was effective upon passage (April 20, 2021). If your local government is currently holding virtual meetings, those meetings will now need to be in compliance with Section 3.7. The biggest change is that certain notations will now need to be made in the meeting memorandum and all votes must be taken by roll call.
Whenever the public health emergency expires, HEA 1437, provides the authority for governing bodies to adopt a virtual meeting policy under IC 5-14-1.5-3.5. Conducting meetings under Section 3.5, however, will be more limited than what is allowed under Section 3.7 during an emergency. Aim has produced guidance documents for what you need to know in adopting a virtual meeting policy for non-emergency times and the documentation you will want to keep in order to show meetings were in compliance with the Open Door Law. In addition, Aim hosted a Virtual Meetings e-workshop on June 30. The recording is available for purchase.
White House Talking Points for President Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan
In regards to the forthcoming rule regarding vaccinations, the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work. The rule will also require these employers to provide paid time off for the time it takes for workers to get vaccinated or to recover if they are under the weather post-vaccination. OSHA will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to implement this requirement.
While we anticipate much more clarity from DOL and OSHA in the coming days, including on timing for implementation of this rule and the exact requirements, we expect this rule to impact municipalities as employers. While OSHA generally regulates private sector employers, public employers will be covered indirectly by OHSA’s rulemaking in “State Plan” states, which is about half of the states in the country. Indiana has an OSHA-approved State Plan that covers private and state/local government workplaces.
In conclusion, much more information is to come and right now we do not know what the final directive(s) will be. We will notify you once we know more.
On September 9, President Biden outlined a robust plan to build on our progress, stop the spread of Delta, and increase vaccinations. The plan reflects the Administration’s whole-of-government approach and unwavering commitment to defeat the virus at home and abroad. President Biden’s COVID-19 action plan – The Path Out of the Pandemic – focuses on:
- Vaccinating the Unvaccinated: President Biden announced vaccination requirements that cover an estimated 100 million Americans – two thirds of all workers – including all employees in the federal government and those at most health care settings.
- Further Protecting the Vaccinated: President Biden announced there will be enough booster shots available to everyone for free as soon as they are authorized – with a national distribution system ready, providing easy access for all eligible Americans, and ensuring Americans know where to get a booster.
- Keeping Schools Safely Open: The President called on all governors to require vaccinations for all teachers and staff, will require vaccination for educators at federal Head Start Programs, and is helping increase regular testing at schools. And, any teacher or school official whose pay is withheld by a governor will have that pay restored by the federal government – 100%.
- Increasing Testing & Requiring Masking: The President’s plan will ensure that every American – no matter their income – can access free, convenient tests. The plan expands easy-to-use testing production through the Defense Production Act, makes tests more affordable, expands free pharmacy testing, and sends free rapid tests to food banks and community health centers. The plan also continues to require masking for interstate travel and on federal property.
- Protecting Our Economic recovery: The President announced several programs that will help ensure the U.S. economy continues to grow, including an expansion of the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan program so small businesses can borrow up to $2 million to keep their businesses strong.
- Improving Care for Those with COVID-19: The Administration is strengthening its surge response, with nearly 1,000 personnel already deployed across 18 states and the Department of Defense doubling the number of their teams deployed to support hospitals. The Administration is also increasing the weekly pace of monoclonal antibody shipments.
Dr. Fauci: ‘Critical role’ of local government in taming pandemic
Dr. Anthony Fauci, member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and one of the world’s leading experts on infectious diseases, participated in a virtual interview with the Georgia Municipal Association. Dr. Fauci spoke about the importance of municipalities in response to the pandemic, vaccine distribution, and other vital information.