The administration of President Joe Biden today announced the details of 2 policies covering more than 100 million workers in an effort to get more people vaccinated against COVID-19. The first rule, issued by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), applies to employers with 100 or more employees and requires them to ensure their workers are either fully vaccinated or undergo weekly testing for SARS-CoV-2, for which employers are not required to pay. The rule also requires employers to provide paid-time off for employees to get vaccinated and compel unvaccinated workers to wear a face mask while at work. Employers who willfully do not comply with the mandate could face fines of up to $14,000 per violation, with the possibility of multiple citations per business. The second rule, issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), requires all healthcare workers employed at facilities that participate in Medicaid and Medicare—approximately 76,000 facilities nationwide—be fully vaccinated, with no option for testing but allowances for medical and religious exemptions. Notably, under the new guidelines, all employees who fall under the OSHA, CMS, or previously announced federal contractor rules are now required to be fully vaccinated by January 4, 2022. The new deadline satisfies requests from businesses to wait until after the holiday season to implement vaccine mandates, expressing concerns over workforce shortages and soaring demand for services. Additionally, OSHA and CMS clarified that the agencies’ new rules preempt any inconsistent state or local laws, such as those banning or limiting employers’ authority to require vaccination, testing, or masking. In rolling out the new policies, the Biden administration clarified its legal authority in implementing the rules, citing OSHA’s responsibility in keeping workers safe and in healthy environments. Nonetheless, legal challenges to the rules are expected in the coming days. Last week, 10 states with Republican leaders filed a joint lawsuit challenging the vaccine mandate for federal contractors, saying the rule is unconstitutional. According to new vaccination mandate protocols published earlier this week, federal contractors will have more flexibility in how they enforce vaccination and testing mandates for workers who remain unvaccinated and who do not seek or receive a valid exemption. Federal contractors who do not comply with the new policies could face losing contracts. Some large federal contractors, including airlines Southwest and American and aerospace engineering company Boeing, have said their employees must abide by the original December 8 deadline to be fully vaccinated or apply for an exemption, although that deadline could be pushed back under the new guidance. According to results from the KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor released last week, 5% of unvaccinated workers say they have left a job because of a vaccine requirement.
KHN reported today that more than 10,000 patients were diagnosed with COVID after being admitted to the hospital for something else and there was a 21% mortality rate for those patients from April to September last year. This story highlights how important it is for each one of us to wear a mask, wash our hands, and use PPE properly all the time, every time. There will be legal challenges to the OSHA and CMS vaccination requirements.
COVID boosters – Mix or Match?
CSSE is reporting 45,840,958 positive cases in the U.S. and 743,650 deaths.