On Sept. 30, the House of Representatives approved by voice vote, the Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act, which is legislation that aims to protect Federal employees from COVID-19.

The legislation, authored by Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., was named in honor of Chai Suthammanont, a Federal employee who passed away after contracting the coronavirus while working as a Quantico daycare center kitchen staff member.

“I refuse to sit idly by while more and more of our Federal workforce are forced back to office buildings under superficial plans with zero accountability,” Rep. Connolly said in a statement. “This legislation is designed to save lives and protect those who serve the American people. We, as Members of Congress, have an obligation to protect the Federal workforce who keep our country running, who keep our country safe.”

Each Federal agency would have to publish a plan to reopen a Federal office building online at least 30 days prior to the return of Federal employees, if the legislation were enacted. Five Senate Democrats have introduced a companion bill in the Senate. The plans would have to include:

  • Data on personal protective equipment the agencies will provide employees;
  • Additional cleaning protocols the agencies will implement;
  • Social distancing efforts;
  • Efforts to protect employees who work outside of the Federal office buildings;
  • Safety and health requirements for visitors to the facilities;
  • Contingency options for those at high-risk of contracting COVID-19; and
  • Efforts to ensure continuity of agency operations.

In addition to introducing this legislation, Rep. Connolly also called on the Department of Defense Inspector General to investigate Suthammanont’s death back in June.

“Let me be clear: this was an avoidable death. Had there been protocols in place, a plan, guidance, Chai might still be alive today,” Rep. Connolly said.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.