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Biden Administration Publishes Vaccine Mandate for Large Businesses

November 4, 2021 by Dan McCue
Biden Administration Publishes Vaccine Mandate for Large Businesses
A syringe is prepared with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at the Reading Area Community College in Reading, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration rolled out a new COVID-19 vaccine mandate Thursday morning, giving large companies until Jan. 4 to ensure that their workforces are fully vaccinated.

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday night, a senior administration official said the sweeping new measure,  which is scheduled to be published in Friday’s Federal Register, will apply to about 84 million private sector workers.

The new rule will be enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It requires employers with 100 or more employees to ensure each of their workers is fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, and mandates at least weekly testing for unvaccinated employees after that.

The OSHA rule will also require that these employers provide paid-time for employees to get vaccinated, and ensure all unvaccinated workers wear a face mask in the workplace.

In addition, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at the Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday announced details of its requirement that health care workers at facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid are fully vaccinated. 

The rule applies to more than 17 million workers at approximately 76,000 health care facilities, including hospitals and long-term care facilities, the White House said.

The administration has previously implemented policies requiring millions of federal employees and federal contractors to be fully vaccinated.

“While we are encouraged to know that vaccination requirements have already helped cut the number of unvaccinated Americans by nearly 40%, it’s important to understand that there are still so many workers who are not protected and remain at risk from becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19,” the administration official said.

“OSHA estimates that this rule will save thousands of lives and prevent over 250,000 hospitalizations during the six months after implementation,” the official continued.

A number of major companies have already embraced COVID-19 vaccination policies similar to those imposed by the Biden administration, seeing them as a corporate responsibility.

Others have moved more slowly, waiting for clarification from the government on how they should proceed, who will pay for testing, and how the rules apply to the large number of people who are now working from home for these companies.

The Federal Register listing, which clocks in at 490 pages, is expected to answer many of these questions.

And while the mandate takes effect immediately, it serves as a proposal for a final standard that could extend the vaccine requirements to smaller businesses. 

That means OSHA is soliciting comment on a number of questions, including: Have you instituted vaccination mandates (with or without alternatives), or requirements for regular COVID-19 testing or face covering use? What have been the benefits of your approach? What challenges have you had or could you foresee in implementing such programs? Is there anything specific to your industry, or the size of your business, that poses particular obstacles in implementing the requirements in this standard? How much time would it take, what types of costs would you incur, and how much would it cost for you to implement such requirements?

A senior administration official said OSHA will  offer compliance assistance to businesses implementing the new standard beginning Thursday, including sample plans, fact sheets, frequently asked questions, and other materials.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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