Virginia was one of the only states in the country that issued workplace health and safety regulations related to COVID-19. Indeed, as we reported back in June 2020, Virginia’s Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) issued emergency regulations early in the pandemic that divided workplaces into categories of risk and imposed regulations on employers for masking, sanitizing, screening, social distancing, quarantining, and returning to work post-infection or direct exposure. Those emergency regulations were re-issued as a permanent standard in January 2021 (referred to as the Virginia Standard for Infections Disease Prevention of the SARS-CoV-2 That Causes COVID-19, 16 VAC 25-220 (Virginia Standard)), at about the same time Virginians were starting to line up to get vaccinated. The permanent Virginia Standard did not offer any distinctions between employer obligations as applied to fully vaccinated versus unvaccinated personnel; and, particularly once Governor Northam rescinded the State of Emergency Executive Order and most mask mandates in May 2021, employers were left wondering what they were obligated to do and whether they had to comply with the seemingly outdated DOLI regulations. In response, Governor Northam recommended to DOLI that the agency modify the Virginia Standard to better align with current CDC guidance and his own Executive Orders.
On August 26, 2021, the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board met and approved amendments to the Virginia Standard, which amendments were presented to the Governor on August 30. The Governor reviewed and approved the amendments, and most of the amendments became effective on September 8, 2021. The amendments stripped the prior classifications of workplaces as “Very High,” “High,” “Medium,” or “Low” risk and instead made one set of rules applicable to all workplaces, and then imposed some expanded rules for healthcare facilities and other “higher risk” workplaces. Significantly, the amended Virginia Standard makes clear that, if an employer is following all current CDC guidance and recommendations (whether mandatory or not), it will be deemed to be acting in compliance with the Virginia Standard for both compliance investigations and enforcement proceedings brought by DOLI.
While the amended Virginia Standard remains lengthy, the key changes are as follows:
All Virginia employers should review the amended Virginia Standard and ensure that they are following all of the new rules. In addition, because the amendments lean so heavily on CDC guidance, employers should review that guidance, particularly regarding return-to-work rules post COVID-19 diagnosis. Finally, Virginia employers who are federal government contractors or subcontractors and those private employers in Virginia who have 100 or more employees need to review President Biden’s Executive Orders and six-part COVID plan issued last week (see here) and will need to be prepared to weave their compliance with the DOLI Virginia Standard in with the anticipated new OSHA Emergency Standard and Executive Orders.
 The infectious disease preparedness and response plan and training requirements for healthcare facilities and higher risk workplaces do not go into effect until October 8, 2021 and November 7, 2021, respectively.
 Suspected COVID-19 is defined in the Virginia Standard as a person who has been told by a health care provider that he or she is suspected to have COVID-19 or he or she is experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19 such as loss of taste or smell, fever, or new unexplained cough and shortness of breath, or other clinical criteria established by the CDC with no other explanation for the symptoms.
 See here and here.
 Transmission area status can be obtained from the CDC website. Currently over 95% of the country is in either a high or substantial transmission area.