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Biden mandates COVID vaccine for 2/3rds of US workforce by Jan. 4

A vaccine. (Dreamstime/TNS)
November 04, 2021

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates as more information becomes available.

On Thursday, the White House unveiled the timeline for President Joe Biden’s previously announced plan to make all businesses with 100 or more employees mandate vaccinations or weekly COVID tests and for all healthcare workers employed at facilities that serve Medicare and Medicaid patients be fully vaccinated. Those affected by these vaccine mandates will have until January 4 to become fully vaccinated, or otherwise comply with the mandates, or face fines of up to $14,000 per violation.

In a press statement, the White House said the mandates will affect two-thirds of the U.S. workforce, or about 100 million U.S. workers.

Biden is bringing forward the vaccine mandates through two executive branch department rules.

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will issue a rule that businesses with 100 or more employees require they either fully vaccinate or be required to show at least weekly proof of a negative COVID-19 test. OSHA previously indicated noncompliance with its rule could result in fines of about $14,000 per violation.

In addition to regular negative COVID-19 tests, unvaccinated employees will be required to wear face masks in the workplace. OSHA estimates its rule will affect about 84 million U.S. workers.

The second department-level rule is issued through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The CMS rule requires all health care workers at facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid to be fully vaccinated. The rule covers approximately 76,000 health care facilities representing 17 million individual health care workers – the majority of U.S. health care workers.

“So, any employee covered by the CMS or federal contractor requirement must have their final vaccination dose by January 4th,” a senior administration official said during a background call with members of the press on Wednesday. “And employers covered by the OSHA rule will need to ensure their employees have received their final vaccination dose by January 4th, with at least weekly testing required for unvaccinated employees after that.”

The White House said using a shared January 4 deadline for all of its mandates will make it easier for affected businesses and employees to know when they need to comply.

“The Administration has previously implemented policies requiring millions of federal employees and federal contractors to be fully vaccinated,” the White House press statement reads. “To make it easy for businesses and workers to comply, the Administration is announcing today that the deadline for workers to receive their shots will be the same for the OSHA rule, the CMS rule, and the previously-announced federal contractor vaccination requirement.”

The White House also said its mandates will help the economy.

“According to Wall Street analysts, vaccination requirements could result in as many as 5 million American workers going back to work,” the White House press statement reads. “And a survey of prominent, independent economists found unanimous agreement that vaccination requirements will ‘promote a faster and stronger economic recovery.’”