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Federal inspections targeting workplace Covid-19 hazards have increased in many southern states in recent months, while declining in the Northeast and Midwest, reversing a pattern from earlier in the pandemic. In most southern states, including Texas and Louisiana, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted more inspections from May 1 through July 13 than during the same period a year ago. Inspections in Texas registered a 171% boost—57 from May through mid-July this year compared with 21 during that time in 2020. In Louisiana, there were 12 inspections during the span, up from seven in 2020, and seven in Mississippi, two more than during the same stretch in 2020. There were five in Oklahoma, compared with none during that time in 2020. Florida had a slight decline—22 last year and 20 during this year’s stretch. Inspections are increasing in states with low vaccination rates at a time when the highly contagious delta variant is fueling a rise in Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations. But OSHA said its new emphasis program targeting Covid-19 high-hazard workplaces is driving up inspections. Unlike last year, when OSHA often needed a worker complaint or fatality report to begin an inspection, the nationwide enforcement initiative has enabled OSHA to launch an inspection if it believes the business is in a high-risk industry.
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