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California Senate passes bill allowing state to keep details of COVID outbreaks secret – Times-Herald

The California Senate approved a bill late Friday night in support of the state’s ability to keep details of the COVID-19 outbreak in the workplace secret. This is a business group victory after the key transparency clauses have been reduced at the last minute.

AB 654 was revised a few days before the end of Friday’s session, removing the requirement for the California Public Health Service to publish COVID outbreaks on a location-by-location basis. This contradicts the author’s stated purpose of drafting the bill and damaging employees, supporters and epidemiologists. We have long argued that such information is essential to the protection of workers.

The bill that passed 37-0 contains an urgent clause, which means that if Governor Gavin Newsom signs the law, it will come into effect immediately.

“The bill doesn’t seem to be transparent right now, but it’s moving in the opposite direction, and there are the general public, local leaders, and local health leaders in nature. We guarantee that we are in the dark in ways we shouldn’t. “David Snyder, lawyer and secretary-general of the First Amendment, said the passage was” very disappointing. “

“This is really life-saving data,” he said.

Act of Parliament 654, drafted by the Inland Empire Democratic Party Eloise Reyes, is advertised as a cleanup bill for AB 685, a state law aimed at providing workers and the general public with information about the outbreak of the coronavirus in the workplace. However, the county in California interpreted this in a significantly different way. Method.

In June Survey by this news agency Only about one-third of the local health sector showed that they first provided details of the outbreak in response to requests for public records. Some officials claimed that the law itself prohibited the publication of data that it was trying to publish, but the State Department of Health published only industry-specific aggregate data on its website.

At the time, Reyes introduced in a statement, “We introduced AB 654 to report this data to California and clarify that it needs to be published informed both at work and in the industry. It was the original intention of last year’s AB685. “

However, in early September, as Reyes faced opposition from the California Chamber of Commerce and primarily a group of Republicans, the state had to publish data generated by both individual workplaces and the broader industry. The wording that clarifies has been removed. The approved bill instead repeats the original wording of AB 685, requiring health authorities to share information through the “workplace industry.”

The bill contains other smaller explanations, such as exempting healthcare facilities from reporting COVID data twice. But labor experts say a California patch that reinstates centrality doesn’t help achieve Reyes’ stated goals and leaves millions of workers in the dark when a deadly virus penetrates the workplace. He said he would support the work reporting criteria.

“We are not bothered by this pandemic …. At a very basic level, at least information about where the potential problem lies can serve as a guide,” said UCLA. Kevin Riley, director of the Occupational Health and Safety Program, said. “But we don’t have it.”

Steve Boardman, Communications Director at SEIU United Service Workers West, which represents more than 47,000 people in California, emphasized that workers need “as much information as possible to protect themselves and their families.”

“We have members with unvaccinated children, elderly people in their households. If you know that there was an outbreak, that’s one thing. People in your industry were ill. Knowing that vaguely is another thing — it’s completely useless, “he said.

Reyes’ office agreed to reduce the transparency requirement after it was revealed in late August that the bill would not move forward if the California Chamber of Commerce objected, according to a source familiar with the procedure. Reyes’ office refused to make her available for interviews or comments about the discrepancy between her original statement and the final draft of the bill.

In a letter of opposition during the summer, Chamber of Commerce policy advocate Robert Moutley called the bill’s central public reporting requirement a “non-profitable blacklist,” and the Public Health Service called it on its website. He expressed concern that the update would be delayed.

“We take COVID-19 seriously, but we don’t distinguish between good and evil parties, and we don’t know how an up-to-date and shameful list will provide California with health benefits. “Moutrie writes. After the language was removed, the Chamber of Commerce reversed its position on September 2.

Labor advocates have published workplace outbreak data with Oregon County with Los Angeles County since the outbreak of the pandemic, and the data is a “public health council” program focused on intervening in warehousing and preventing outbreaks. It is pointed out that it was useful for the formation of. , Manufacturing and other sectors, said Riley of UCLA.

“The sky isn’t falling. The companies didn’t have to close their doors because they had their name there,” he said.

In the Bay Area, outbreak records obtained by the news agency revealed 171 incidents at the HelloFresh facility in Richmond last summer. This was a surprise to workers who said they had never been informed of the extent of the outbreak.

Other records confirmed the magnitude of the outbreak of 402 Foster farms and showed more than 1,700 cases reported at Amazon’s facility. Publicly discussed by members of the Cal / OSHA Occupational Safety Subcommittee At this summer’s conference, this news agency First record collection..

Buffywicks, a member of the East Bay legislature in the district, including Richmond, said he was unaware of the scope of the bill’s amendments until he called the press Thursday and supported the bill to clarify reports on medical facilities. But Wicks said the change “means we need to go back and make sure we’re doing everything we can to create a transparent and healthy space for our workers.” I admitted.

“I think we certainly need to promote as much disclosure as possible. If that means looking again next year and coming up with ways to grow more sunlight with exposure, we You certainly should do that, “Wicks said.

Other local Bay Area representatives who voted in favor of the bill either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment. The California Labor Union declined the representative’s comment, and the United Food and Commercial Workers’ Union, which was involved in the creation of both AB685 and AB654, returned questions about the amendment to Reyes’ office.

As passed, the law helps commercial leaders who believe that “transparency is somehow harmful to their profits,” said First Amendment Attorney Snyder.

“It’s not a way to make a successful public health campaign,” Snyder said.

California Senate passes bill allowing state to keep details of COVID outbreaks secret – Times-Herald Source link California Senate passes bill allowing state to keep details of COVID outbreaks secret – Times-Herald

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