Congressional Leaders Push CDC and OSHA to Address Aerosol Transmission of COVID-19

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressional leaders wrote a letter to the Biden administration urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to update ventilation and respiratory protection guidance and standards to address aerosol transmission of the COVID-19 virus. In the letter, the leaders praised the administration’s science-based approach to defeating the virus but noted that recent expert findings show the CDC’s existing guidance— adopted under the prior administration— may not go far enough to protect workers who face the greatest risk of exposure to aerosol transmission of COVID-19.  

The letter is signed by Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Committee on Education and Labor, Chair Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Committee on Appropriations, Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), Committee on Energy and Commerce, Chairman James E. Clyburn (SC-06), Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis and Chair Alma Adams (NC-12), Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.

“Despite numerous studies documenting the transmission risk via aerosol exposure, CDC guidance continues to rely on the view—which is outmoded according to the Experts’ Letter—that most COVID-19 infections are caused by contact with larger infectious droplets.  In the view of the Experts’ Letter, up-to-date science needs to be reflected in updated policy if we are to effectively protect at-risk workers,” wrote the Members. “Unless CDC scientists have persuasive evidence that contradicts the evidence presented in the Experts’ Letter, CDC and OSHA should delineate the recommended measures that need to be taken to prevent aerosol exposure—especially in workplaces.” 

The Members also suggested that– given the increased availability of better respiratory protection for health care employees– CDC should consider updating its guidance to reflect the most recent science and that the Defense Production Act should be invoked to address any future shortages as improved respiratory protection is needed for other at-risk workers.

COVID-19 has taken a devastating toll on workers across key sectors, including health care, meatpacking, transportation, and corrections.  At least 57,493 meatpacking workers have tested positive for COVID-19 and 284 have died. There have been 546,048 employees working at long term care facilities infected with COVID-19 and 1,590 related deaths. 

To read the letter from experts, click here

To read the letter from Congressional leaders, click here.

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