Florida Judge Rules Governor Did Not Have Authority to Ban School Mask Mandates

Just before the start of the 2021 school year, with COVID-19 rates in Florida rapidly rising, several Florida school boards implemented mask mandates in their school districts. In response, on July 30, 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 21-175, which banned mask mandates in schools, declaring that it should be parents—not the government—who decide whether their children are required to wear masks in school.

On August 6, 2021, a group of parents claiming that their children were adversely affected by the governor’s blanket ban on mask mandates in Florida schools filed a lawsuit against the governor, challenging the constitutionality of the ban. On August 27, 2021, following a four-day virtual trial, Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper ruled from the bench that the ban was unlawful, reasoning that DeSantis overreached his authority, misinterpreted state law and disregarded the nation’s best scientific and medical opinions.

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OSHA Updates COVID-19 Guidance for Masking and Testing of Vaccinated Workers and Further Encourages Vaccination

OSHA recently updated its Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace for employers in nonhealthcare settings. The updated OSHA guidance tracks the CDC’s July 27, 2021, recommendations, based upon the increased spread of the delta variant and new evidence that vaccinated persons can spread COVID-19. The updated OSHA guidance, together with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s August 23, 2021, approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine, may lead to increased worker vaccination mandates.

The updated guidance now provides for vaccinated workers to mask in public areas in all workplaces located in counties with substantial or high COVID-19 community transmission.

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COVID-19 Vaccine Approval Further Opens Door for Employer Mandates

On August 23, the FDA granted full approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for individuals age 16 and older. Some employees who expressed vaccine hesitancy because the FDA approval was only an emergency use authorization (EUA) may have less hesitancy now. This may be a good time, through employee education, to once again encourage your employees to get vaccinated.

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Supreme Court Denies Student Request to Block University Vaccine Mandate

On August 12, the Supreme Court of the United States denied eight students’ request to block Indiana University’s requirement that students be vaccinated against the coronavirus. The students’ case, Klaassen v. Trustees of Indiana University, is the first test of a COVID-19 vaccine requirement in the context of an educational institution to arrive at the Supreme Court.

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CDC Now Recommends Vaccinated People Wear Masks in Public, Indoor Settings in Areas of Substantial or High COVID-19 Transmission

On July 27, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People and scaled back the relaxed masking guidelines for vaccinated individuals that it issued in May 2021.

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IRS Warns of Ongoing and Pandemic-Related Tax Scams

ach year, we share with you what the IRS calls its “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams. This year, the pandemic has given rise to new, and even more sophisticated scams. The scams on the 2021 IRS Dirty Dozen list can be encountered at any time during the year, but they peak during tax season(s). With numerous changes impacting taxpayers due to the global pandemic such as extended and inconsistent tax deadlines, various stimulus payments, COVID-related unemployment or economic hardship payments, tax scams continue to occur at an alarming rate and an increasing number of people fall prey to these scams. Don’t be one of them. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Some scams are complex, with sophisticated algorithms being used to steal identities. Other scams are as simple as picking up the telephone to trap unaware and unsuspecting taxpayers. Once again and not surprisingly, phishing and phone scams are two of the most prevalent ways in which taxpayers have been victimized. As expected, as the country continues to recover from the effects of a global pandemic, many entries on this list are associated with the impacts of COVID-19.

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New York Department of Labor Publishes Standard and Model Plans for HERO Act’s Imminent Adoption Requirement

The HERO Act, signed into law on May 6, 2021, and amended on June 14, 2021, is legislation designed to create enforceable health and safety regulations aimed at preventing airborne infectious diseases in the workplace. The law applies to all New York employers, regardless of size, and includes a requirement that employers establish a joint labor-management workplace safety committee. The law also includes an anti-retaliation provision and provides for civil penalties and a private right of action.

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New York Enacts Amended HERO Act Requiring Employers to Implement Workplace Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plans

On May 6, 2021, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law “first in the nation” legislation designed to create enforceable health and safety regulations aimed at preventing airborne infectious diseases in the workplace. The New York Health and Essential Rights Act takes effect in stages and requires the New York State Department of Labor to develop and publish model airborne infectious disease exposure prevention standards that employers can choose to either adopt or use as a guide in developing their own airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plans.

To read the full text of this Duane Morris Alert, please visit the firm website.