To slow the spread of COVID-19, health regulations have been changed or implemented in a variety of ways. These are eight examples of COVID-19 health regulations.
1. Medical Device Labeling
As part of an effort to assist the medical device industry with efforts to focus on high-quality Unique Device Identification submissions and COVID-19 response efforts, the United States Food and Drug Administration issued guidance in July of 2020. The guidance document indicates that standard date formatting will not be enforced for UDI labeling and FDA GUDID data submission requirements for Class I and unclassified devices until September 24, 2022.
2. Recording Workplace Exposures
Covered employers are required by OSHA to record certain types of work-related injuries and illnesses on their OSHA 300 log. If an employee becomes infected as a result of doing their job, COVID-19 is a recordable illness. However, employers are only required to record cases of COVID-19 when the case is confirmed, work-related and involves at least one of the general recording criteria listed in 29 CFR 1904.7.
3. Personal Protective Equipment Standards
OSHA's Personal Protective Equipment standards require using gloves, face, respiratory and eye protection whenever job hazards warrant it. If respirators are needed for worker protection, employers are required to implement a comprehensive respiratory protection program. PPE required to keep workers safe from the spread of COVID-19 falls under these regulations.
4. The General Duty Clause
Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 is also called the "General Duty Clause." This clause mandates employers to provide workers employment and a workplace that is free from known hazards that are causing or are likely to cause severe physical harm or death. Because COVID-19 can cause severe physical harm or death, worker infections with this illness would fall under this clause.
5. Aerosol Transmissible Diseases Standard
The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health includes the coronavirus in this standard intended to stop workers from becoming ill due to infectious diseases transmitted by breathing aerosol droplets that contain bacteria, viruses or other disease-causing organisms. However, this standard is only mandatory for some healthcare employers.
6. Travel Restrictions
Countries across the globe have imposed various travel restrictions to attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. The United States banned travel from China in the early stages of the pandemic. Many countries have recently banned travel from the United Kingdom, due to the emergence of a new, more highly contagious version of the virus in that region. Additionally, some states and provinces within countries have issued travel restrictions from other states and provinces experiencing high levels of COVID-19 infections.
7. Mask Mandates
Because the CDC and other public health organizations have indicated that wearing facial coverings can significantly slow the spread of COVID-19, many states, counties and municipalities have issued mask mandates. However, because the mandates are difficult to enforce, much of the burden of forcing compliance has been left to individual businesses and other entities that serve the public.
8. Shelter-in-Place Orders
During the initial phases of the pandemic, many states issued shelter-in-place orders to residents to prevent unnecessary contact between members of the public who might be infected with COVID-19. These orders required residents to remain in their homes, other than to conduct essential business, such as going to work or the grocery store. Some of the orders mandated that all non-essential businesses shut down or operate entirely remotely. Most of these orders were eased relatively early in the pandemic due to concerns about economic damage. However, some states began implementing the orders again when cases spiked in the fall and early winter months.
The efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 have required existing regulations to be used in new ways and new regulations to be implemented. As the pandemic continues to evolve, regulations will likely continue to be adjusted to fit changing circumstances.