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New Year, Same Virus

jeanie j clapp

BY JEANIE J. CLAPP
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

When I wrote my column for the January/February 2021 issue of Constructor, I thought talking about COVID in the present would soon be a thing of the past. Yet, here we are, six issues and 12 months later, and COVID continues to lurk.

Vaccines are at our disposal and boosters are readily available, but we continue to wade through the muck of not one, but two, COVID variants. Fortunately, AGC of America has thrown the industry a rope and is working to pull the construction community through it all.

When a new federal vaccine mandate was announced in the fall of 2021, AGC leapt into action, organized a webinar to help federal contractors and subcontractors understand what was proposed, and contacted the White House Office of Management and Budget, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, and key federal construction owner agencies to highlight the disruptions the mandate will cause to the construction of federal projects. Fast forward to today, and — as of this writing — two federal courts have issued preliminary injunctions against the mandate. On November 30, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky issued a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of this mandate in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. And on December 7, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia issued a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of the mandate “in any state or territory of the United States of America.” This issue isn’t by any means settled, and AGC has plans to file its own lawsuit, further tightening its grip around the lasso and tugging hard.

Separately, OSHA released a COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS) which will impact employers with 100+ workers. Believing this will have a negative economic impact on the industry (vaccine-hesitant workers will have little difficulty finding career opportunities outside the industry or at smaller firms not covered by the OSHA mandate) and that it exceeds the statutory authority of the U.S. Department of Labor, AGC, along with industry allies, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit challenging the ETS. Not surprisingly, the court temporarily halted the ETS and on November 17, the agency announced it had suspended implementation and enforcement of the ETS “pending future developments in the litigation.”

AGC is not only reactive; it’s proactive. To encourage workers to get vaccinated, the association recently released a series of COVID-19 public service announcements. These videos, viewable on its YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/AGCofAmerica), feature testimonials from workers who did not get their shot, contracted COVID and nearly died. Their stories will do nothing less than inspire others to get their shot.

Presently, AGC of America is conducting its annual construction outlook survey to help it predict how the industry will fare moving forward given the current economic state of the country. You’ll be able to see those results in mid-January by visiting AGC.org. Constructor, of course, will include an article on those results and other predictions in the March/April issue.

And to top it off, AGC is gearing up to deliver another outstanding convention this year. If you haven’t already, mark your calendars and register (https://na.eventscloud.com/ereg/index.php?eventid=639104&) for the 2022 Annual Convention, set for March 28-31, in Grapevine, Texas. I hope to see you there. In the meantime, hold on tight to that rope. Happy New Year!