Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner introduced a bill Wednesday that aims to create coronavirus reopening guidelines for federal agencies in response to the death of a worker at Marine Corps Base Quantico who had contracted COVID-19.
The Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act would force federal agencies to create and publish safety plans as part of the coronavirus reopening.
Suthammanont worked in a Quantico kitchen, where he worried that he would catch the coronavirus at work, according to the WUSA 9 in Washington. It was hard to maintain social distancing in the kitchen's close confines. He eventually contracted the virus and died within weeks.
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“At least he's still helping people,” his widow Christina Suthammanont told the outlet, after the House passed the bill. “He's still able to make the world a little better, which, you know, the world was definitely better with him in it. So, I just have to think about it that way.”
FILE - This Wednesday July 25, 2018 file photo shows Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., vice-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
If the act becomes law, it would require agencies to design and publish plans detailing the protective gear they would provide employees, enhanced sanitation protocols, social distancing efforts and other health-related measures as they reopen after coronavirus shutdowns.
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“Chai was committed to his community, and for that, he gave up his life,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, who sponsored the bill in the House. “Our bill will ensure federal employees have the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding their agencies’ reopening plans. We owe that to Chai and his family.”
Each agency’s inspector general would also have to review compliance and whether personal protective equipment was being supplied to workers.
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“Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, federal employees have been hard at work to preserve essential government functions and ensure that the American people can continue to count on their government for vital guidance and assistance when they need it the most,” Sen. Warner said in a statement announcing the bill. “However, this work should never come at the expense of workers’ lives, as was the case for Chai Suthammanont, a public servant from Virginia who passed from COVID-19 complications.”
Fellow Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, all Democrats, joined Warner in introducing the bill.