Review of the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) rule has been completed, and the White House has announced that companies with 100 or more employees must ensure their workers are either fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 4, 2022, or that they produce a negative Covid test at least once a week. Federal workers still have until November 22 to get the shots, but federal contractors now have until January 4.
The rule will take effect once it is published in the federal register later this week, and according to a senior administration official, the new Emergency Temporary Standard is well within OSHA’s authority under the law and consistent with OSHA’s requirements to protect workers from health and safety hazards, including infectious diseases. The rule preempts states and local government from adopting and enforcing workplace requirements relating to these issues, except under the authority of a federally approved state plan.
Employers will be required to provide paid time to workers to get vaccinated and paid leave to recover from any side effects that keep employees from being able to work. Companies that don’t comply, could face a fine of about $14,000. Medical and religious exemptions are still in place. The rule does not require employers to pay for or provide testing to workers who decline the vaccine. However, collective bargaining agreements or other circumstances may dictate otherwise.
For healthcare workers, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, CMS, is issuing a rule to require that healthcare workers at facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid are fully vaccinated.
The rule also requires non-vaccinated workers to wear face coverings while on the job.
Vaccination requirements have already helped cut the number of unvaccinated Americans by nearly 40 percent, according to the White House. And as of today, 70 percent of adult Americans are now fully vaccinated (up from less than 1 percent when President Biden took office, according to the White House). Early in the summer, Biden aimed for a goal of Americans having at least one dose by July 4. The seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases in the United States has been declining since about mid-September, but there are still currently 70,000 cases per day. The virus that has killed more than 745,000 Americans. Hospitalizations in Sheboygan County are currently at the highest level since December 4, 2020.
According to the White House briefing, analysts at Goldman Sachs projected that these kinds of vaccination requirements could lead to up to 5 million Americans reentering the workforce, as they feel safer going back to work and experience fewer disruptions to things like childcare. OSHA estimates that this rule will save thousands of lives and prevent over 250,000 hospitalizations during the six months after implementation.