The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have released their anticipated new requirements for national vaccine mandates. First announced preliminarily in September, those requirements were given on Thursday.
The Biden administration's deadline for compliance is January 4, 2022. All workers covered by these requirements must have their final vaccination by that date. The rules cover "employers with 100 or more employees, firm or company wide, and provides options for compliance to protect their workers."
The original deadline was meant to be December 8, but that was pushed back. This was done, per the administration, to "make it easier—to make it as easy as possible for businesses to implement these requirements and for workers to comply."
Kevin Munoz, of Biden's communications team, gave information to press on the new policies for workplaces with more than 100 employees, and for medicare and medicaid workers and facilities.
President Joe Biden and his administration have pushed for vaccines, first as a voluntary option for Americans, then with increasing restrictions, requirements, and mandates.
OSHA issued a rule covering some 84 million employees who are to be required by their employer, per federal rules, to be vaccinated or submit negative COVID tests once per week. Those who do not choose to vaccinate will be required to wear a face mask at work.
CMS requires all healthcare workers at Medicare and Medicaid facilities to be fully vaccinated. This covers more than 17 million workers at about 76,000 healthcare facilities nationwide. There is not a testing option for these workers.
"There is not a testing option. We have a higher bar for healthcare workers, given their critical role in ensuring the health and safety of their patients. And so, it’s either vaccination or an exemption under the rules outlined," a senior White House official said.
The administration defended OSHA's legal right to issue these requirements, saying that the Occupational Safety and Health Act "gives OSHA the authority to act quickly in an emergency where the agency finds that workers are subjected to a grave danger and a new standard is necessary to protect them."
As COVID has seen American casualties nearing 750,000, the administration says that it "is clearly a health hazard that poses a grave danger to workers."
As to fines for noncompliance, a single violation would cost an employer $13,653. Additional violations would be multiples of that charge.
As to enforcement, OSHA will be conducting inspections of workplaces in order to assess any violations. "We also would assess whether or not there were multiple violations depending on the number of instances of the violation that we were looking at," said a senior White House official. "So, you know, potentially there could be multiples of that. But it would depend upon the situation during the inspection and the evidence that was presented."
Worker shortages have plagued employers and the economy as vaccine mandates have gone into effect. 9,000 New York City workers are off the job as a result of the mandates in that city, while Seattle saw front line workers leaving their posts rather than submit to the jab.