By: Kathryn Laflin
As we say goodbye to 2020, we must also look towards the many changes that 2021 may bring. With COVID-19 cases still rising, vaccines being introduced, and a new President likely coming into office, 2021 is already poised to be an interesting year.
In regard to the COVID-19 vaccines in Texas, the first round of vaccines have been allocated to health centers to begin the vaccination process. This included a total of 224,250 doses for the “Week 1 Allocation.”1 Texas will initially allocate COVID-19 vaccines based on the following criteria:
- Protecting health care workers who fill a critical role in caring for and preserving the lives of COVID-19 patients and maintaining the health care infrastructure for all who need it.
- Protecting frontline workers who are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 due to the nature of their work providing critical services and preserving the economy.
- Protecting vulnerable populations who are at greater risk of severe disease and death if they contract COVID-19.
- Mitigating health inequities due to factors such as demographics, poverty, insurance status and geography.
- Data-driven allocations using the best available scientific evidence and epidemiology at the time, allowing for flexibility for local conditions.
- Geographic diversity through a balanced approach that considers access in urban and rural communities and in affected ZIP codes.
- Transparency through sharing allocations with the public and seeking public feedback. 2
The Texas Department of Health and the COVID-19 Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel will continue to monitor the vaccines and the “roll-out” plan.
Changes in Washington
Based on the current status of events, Joe Biden will be inaugurated on January 20, 2021. As with any new administration, his inauguration could impact the construction industry.
Key issues to watch moving forward include the potential changes in the union and immigration policies. Further, there are many environmental policies, such as the executive order issued by President Trump this summer regarding waiving environmental regulations and to further other actions necessary to streamline and expedite infrastructure projects in the wake of COVID-19, that may be changed by the Biden administration. Finally, we will need to keep an eye on changing regulations by federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (i.e. the addition of new environmental and emissions regulations), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (i.e., temporary emergency standards for COVID-19, additional federal oversight on the state OSHA entities, additional inspectors, and the enforcement of the anti-retaliation rule), and the Internal Revenue Service (i.e., how the tax code treats construction machinery and capital investments), that could reverse some of the regulations that we have seen over the last four years.
Joe Biden has said his administration will invest $2 trillion into the economy with the stated goal of creating millions of jobs in infrastructure, housing, building construction and other projects (specifically his campaign website states that he has a plan to upgrade 4 million buildings, weatherize 2 million homes, shift more toward clean energy sources and generate “millions of good, union jobs,” rebuilding America’s infrastructure).3 In addition to his campaign website, we can look towards recent infrastructure proposals from the Congressional Democrats supported by Joe Biden. For example, in July, the House passed the $1.5 trillion Moving Forward Act, focusing on the “Nation’s roads, bridges, transit, rail, ports and harbors, schools, housing, broadband, drinking and wastewater systems, postal service, clean energy sector, health care infrastructure, and so much more.” 4 With many bills expiring, such as the FAST Act (short for Fixing America’s Surface Transportation), we must look towards the new administration to see how they will move forward for the nation’s infrastructure, as well as for the construction industry. The extent these policy goals are likely to proceed into legislation will, in large part, be determined by which party controls Congress. Therefore, while we are cautiously optimistic that 2021 will bring increased infrastructure spending, it remains an undecided issue. Nonetheless, this appears to be an issue that could generate bipartisan support regardless of what party controls Congress.
Overall, 2021 is sure to bring a lot of changes in the Nation, both related to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the likely new administration and public construction priorities, and we will be here to offer guidance along the way to help you manage and grow your business.
The KRCL Construction Team has significant experience guiding employers in the construction industry through OSHA training, compliance, investigations and administrative proceedings. To learn more about KRCL’s experience and capabilities in this area, please visit the OSHA Defense page on our firm website.
For additional COVID-19 information, including the full list of recommendations for the construction industry, click here.
As an “essential” business, the construction industry is also required to follow the minimum standard health protocols outlined by the Texas Department of State Health Services, which include many of the same recommendations outlined above. For a complete list of these protocols, click here.