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New Federal COVID-19 Mandates Announced

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Note: This post was originally published in September 2021 and has been updated, as of November 4, to include new information.

On September 9, 2021, President Joe Biden addressed the nation to outline his forthcoming multi-step plan in the ongoing fight against COVID-19, specifically the highly infectious Delta variant.

One of President Biden’s goals is to increase the percentage of American workers who are vaccinated in order to protect the small minority who are unable to get the vaccine due to underlying medical conditions or, currently, certain age groups.

In order to do that, OSHA has issued an emergency temporary standard stating that all employers with 100 or more employees must require either full vaccination by January 4 or enforce weekly negative tests and masks for the unvaccinated.

Starting December 5, employers who fall into this category will be required, by the Department of Labor, to give workers paid time off to receive their vaccines, plus sick leave to recover from any vaccination side effects. This part of the plan affects 84 million workers.

Employers who don’t comply with the new vaccine mandate or who do not provide employees with PTO could face fines of up to $13,653 per violation, which is the current maximum penalty for one-time OSHA violations.

In August, President Biden required all nursing home staff to be vaccinated in order to protect vulnerable older Americans. That has been expanded to include all workers in hospitals, home healthcare and other medical facilities, including contractors of said facilities, and now affects more than 17 millions employees. Again, the deadline for full vaccination is January 4.

Facilities that do not comply may have to pay civil penalties or may be denied funding, and could even lose their Medicare and Medicaid programs. Healthcare employees do not have a negative testing option, but religious and medical exemptions will be offered.

There were also two executive orders signed by President Biden in September: one requiring all executive branch employees to be vaccinated and another requiring all federal government contractors to be vaccinated.

Previously, federal contractors had the option of producing a negative test instead of receiving the vaccine.President Biden also noted that the Transportation Security Administration increased fines for “individuals who violate the federal mask mandate.” A first offense will now result in a fine ranging from $500-$1,000 while any subsequent offense will see a $1,000-$3,000 penalty.

It has been noted that OSHA does plan to carry out workplace inspections regarding vaccination, negative testing and mask wearing. OSHA will distribute fact sheets and sample methods to help companies understand the new requirements.

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