In the latest attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus, President Joseph Biden recently announced new COVID-19 vaccination requirements. Because of the recent rise in variant cases, the requirements are part of a six-pronged strategy to combat the virus. Accordingly, the Biden administration believes the new approach uses every available tool to combat COVID-19 and save many lives. Previously, in August, the White House released a new fact sheet announcing actions planned at that time to fight COVID-19.

Overview of the New Strategy

As noted, the new strategy released by the White House contains six key points. However, the information included in this blog post only focuses on information that affects businesses the most.

In general, COVID-19 vaccines have been available to every individual age 16 and older since April 19th, 2021. Vaccines have also been available to those age 12 and older since May. Then, President Biden announced COVID-19 vaccination requirements for the federal government in July. To that end, the latest plan now includes the following additional requirements:

  • Employers with 100+ employees must ensure all workers either become fully vaccinated or participate in weekly testing. At the present time, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has the authority to create a rule to oversee this requirement. Explicitly, OSHA will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). However, this mandate will not take effect until the publication of the final ETS.
  • All federal workers and associated contractors must be vaccinated. Building on his July vaccination requirement announcement, President Biden has announced plans requiring vaccination for federal executive branch workers.  Subsequently, employees of contractors that do business with the federal government will also face vaccination requirements.
  • Health care workers at locations that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement must be vaccinated. In addition, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will issue COVID-19 vaccination requirements for workers in care settings. For example, these care settings are entities that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement.
  • Employers must provide time off for vaccinations. Additionally, OSHA will require employers with over 100 employees to provide paid time off for vaccination purposes within the ETS. In brief, this includes the time it takes to receive the vaccination shots and any time needed to recover from the vaccination.

Employer Takeaways

In conclusion, employers must keep in mind that OSHA has not yet released the expected ETS.  Given that fact, employers do not yet have effective dates as to when the above actions need to begin. However, OSHA publishes the ETS, affected employers should abide by the information to avoid potential fines and penalties.