U.S. mandates vaccines or tests for big companies by Jan. 4

Tens of millions of Americans who work at companies with 100 or more employees will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4 or get tested for the virus weekly under government rules issued Thursday.

The new requirements, which were first previewed by President Joe Biden in September, will apply to about 84 million workers at medium and large businesses, although it is not clear how many of those employees are unvaccinated.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations will force the companies to require that unvaccinated workers test negative for COVID-19 at least once a week and wear a mask while in the workplace.

Tougher rules will apply to another 17 million people who work in nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities that receive money from Medicare and Medicaid. Those workers will not have an option for testing—they will need to be vaccinated.

Workers will be able to ask for exemptions on medical or religious grounds.

OSHA said companies that fail to comply with the regulations could face penalties of nearly $14,000 per violation.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb issued a statement Thursday, saying he would challenge the federal order.

“I direct the Indiana Department of Labor to work with the Attorney General on a lawsuit challenging the federal government regarding the OSHA ETS,” he said. “This is an overreach of the government’s role in serving and protecting Hoosiers. While I agree that the vaccine is the tool that will best protect against COVID-19, this federal government approach is unprecedented and will bring about harmful, unintended consequences in the supply chain and the workforce.”

It was unclear how OSHA planned to enforce the rules. A senior administration official said the agency would target companies if it gets complaints.

The release of the rules followed weeks of regulatory review and meetings with business groups, labor unions and others. The regulations form the cornerstone of Biden’s most aggressive effort yet to combat the spread of COVID-19, which has killed more than 740,000 people in the U.S.

OSHA drafted the rules under emergency authority meant to protect workers from an imminent health hazard. The agency estimated that the vaccine mandate will save more than 6,500 worker lives and prevent more than 250,000 hospitalizations over the next six months.

Senior administration officials said the rules preempt conflicting state laws or orders, including those that ban employers from requiring vaccinations, testing or the wearing of face masks.

The administration will face an immediate challenge from Republican state officials who are eager to fight Biden in court and in Congress. Senate Republicans immediately launched a petition to force a vote to overturn the vaccine mandate, but with Democrats controlling the chamber, the effort is nearly certain to fail.

More than two dozen Republicans serving as state attorneys general have indicated they plan to sue, arguing that only Congress can enact such sweeping requirements under emergency authority.

Last week, 19 states sued to stop Biden’s narrower mandate that employees of federal contractors be vaccinated. That requirement was scheduled to take effect Dec. 8, but the administration said Thursday it will be delayed until Jan. 4 to match the requirements on other large employers and health care providers.

The rules will require workers to receive either two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by Jan. 4 or be tested weekly. Employees who test positive must be removed from the workplace.

Companies won’t be required to provide or pay for the tests, but they must give paid time off for employees to get vaccines and sick leave to recover from side effects that prevent them from working. The requirements for masks and paid time off for shots will take effect Dec. 5.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued a separate rule requiring vaccination for workers in 76,000 health facilities and home health care providers that get funding from the government health programs. A senior administration official said that several large private health care organizations imposed their own mandates and achieved high vaccination rates—96% or higher—without widespread resignations.

The White House sees the new requirements as a potent tool to winnow down the ranks of the tens of millions of Americans who have thus far refused to get a shot.

For weeks, Biden has encouraged businesses not to wait for the OSHA rule to take effect. He has touted businesses that have already announced their own vaccine mandates and urged other companies to follow their lead.

Administration officials say those efforts are paying off, with about 70% of the nation’s adults now fully vaccinated.

Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, said in late July it was requiring all workers at its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, as well as its managers who travel within the U.S., to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 4. But the company had stopped short of requiring shots for its frontline workers.

United Airlines required U.S. employees to get vaccinated or face termination. Only a very small number of its 67,000 workers refused to do so.

In August, Tyson Foods told its 120,000 U.S. workers that they must be vaccinated by Nov. 1. A week before that deadline, the company said 96% of its workforce was fully vaccinated.

However, some companies have expressed fear that some vaccine-hesitant workers might quit, leaving their workforces even thinner in what is already a tight labor market.

Several large business groups complained about the timing of the mandate. Retail groups worried that the requirement could disrupt their operations during the critical Christmas shopping period. Retailers and others also said it could worsen supply chain disruptions.

The National Retail Federation suggested that the new rules are not needed because the rolling average number of new daily cases in the U.S. has fallen by more than half since September.

“Nevertheless, the Biden administration has chosen to declare an ‘emergency’ and impose burdensome new requirements on retailers during the crucial holiday shopping season,” said David French, a senior vice president for the trade group.

The number of new COVID-19 infections in the U.S. is still falling from a summer surge caused by the highly contagious delta variant, but the rate of decline has slowed in recent weeks. The 7-day moving average is down 6% from two weeks ago, at more than 76,000 new cases and 1,200 deaths per day.

The mandate on federal contractors led to demonstrations by opponents, including workers at a NASA rocket engine test site in Mississippi. Some said they are immune because they contracted COVID-19. Others said vaccines violated their religious beliefs and constitutional rights.

“No one should be forced to take a medical treatment just to keep their job,” said Nyla Trumbach, an engineer at the site. “There’s years and years of experience and skill out here, and I just want anyone who’s watching to see what we stand to lose here if these people don’t keep their jobs.”

Dozens of groups sought meetings with administration officials to air their concerns and objections to likely provisions of the OSHA rule, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the AFL-CIO and anti-vaccine organizations.

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16 thoughts on “U.S. mandates vaccines or tests for big companies by Jan. 4

  1. Exactly what are the “harmful and unintended consequences” that Gov. Holcomb fears from mass vaccinations against Covid? Here in Indiana the death count continues to climb as only about half of the state’s population has been vaccinated. The rate of vaccinations has pretty much plateaued, both here and nationally. To date roughly a quarter million Americans have died from the infection, and as many or more survived but will deal for years with serious symptoms resulting from their infection. We have now seen three waves in this pandemic, and without achieving an 80-percent or higher rate of inoculations more waves will occur. The pandemic is still here, it threatens lives and our economy. Complying with a national mandate can end this nightmare.

  2. What is lost here is that this is not still an “Emergency” thus his emergency powers don’t apply.

    Also, if you are vaccinated and its so awesomely safe to be vaccinated, why do you care if someone else is or isn’t?

    1. Why do we care. COVID kills a certain percentage of people it infects. It makes a certain percentage sick enough to be hospitalized. Sick and dying people fill up hospitals denying the rest of America access to health care. Dead people don’t contribute to the economy at all ever again. Sick people don’t contribute to the economy as long as they are sick.

      People that are unvaccinated are more likely to get COVID even if they have already had COVID in an earlier wave. Unvaccinated people are more likely to be incubate the virus for longer than vaccinated people, thus spreading the disease to more people, even to some already vaccinated people. See paragraph one for the results.

      I would really care if Cousin Maga visits at Christmas and infects and kids grandma and grandpa, and maybe even the rest of my family, so do see why everyone should get vaccinated?

    2. AMEN. These “you must vax if we all will die” idiots are what’s wrong with America. They are openly inviting government control of all aspects of our livelihood.

  3. The first two people deserve what they get I guess. They don’t get out much. I spent almost a month in the hospital due to COVID pneumonia. I did not have the “vaccine” but that was my choice. I stayed away from most people, especially large groups and avoided it. My wife chose to get “fully vaccinate” and we felt safe. She went out, being fully vaccinated, got COVID and then gave it to me. The amazing thing is that while in ICU, i still kept my ears open and what I heard amazed me. For 3 and 1/2 weeks as many people were being admitted to ICU that had been vaccinated as had not and for 3 days during that period actually more were being that were vaccinated than had not.
    Vaccinating will not protect anyone or stop the spread of COVID. I was amazed but not any more than the doctors and nurses who all believed as the first two commenters were.
    Instead of concentrating on treatments for COVID as we should have we have been more concerned about getting people vaccinated by something that really doesn’t even qualify as a vaccine. MRNA technology, of which these shots are made from are no vaccines in the traditional sense as unlike all previous, actual vaccines. That is why they have such short life spans as far as protection.

    1. I actually get out a lot now that I’ve got the booster. I’m tired of being at home. But it’s not that hard to wear a mask when I go grocery shopping or sit at church … those who sit near me have to be glad that something is over my mouth to muffle my tone-deaf warbling.

      Neil, you realize that if everyone was vaccinated, 100% of those hospitalized would be vaccinated, right?

      The vaccine has never promised 100% protection from infection, illness, hospitalization, or death… similar to how any treatment for COVID is not going to work in 100% of cases. But you knew that, right?

      Just like you knew that the science wasn’t going to lead to the call for boosters until we started having breakthrough cases and we realized that the protection from the vaccine was waning … with those who’d taken the “traditional” J&J shot being those most at risk.

  4. I do not get this stupidity, and the cost they are putting on business. Let me understand. We can’t find workers now because the government decided to pay them so much to be off for covid. Now they want us to make sure we give them time off required to get them the vaccine as well as any side effects? What the hell were they doing all this time? If they wanted the vaccine, they would have gotten it! People who don’t want it, don’t want it. So many companies have closed due to this pandemic as it is. President Biden should not get to decide what you put in your body. And he should not make business continue to pay for this. Business now has to come up with a plan to manage this, administer this. Of course they haven’t figured out a way to monitor this –THEY ARE NOT CAPABLE! But when employees can whistle blow and OSHA comes out to pull $14k per person from you due to non-compliance, then the government can make more money???? They will be right there up your rear end! The thing threatening our economy is business, supply chain, lack of employment. Anyone who thinks complying with this national mandate will end this nightmare? When does your covid shot expire? Who is tracking that……

    1. Wow, is there a lot of misinformation to unpack in your comment. Yes wages have risen, even in states that stopped the extra unemployment benefits early. Maybe the Pandemic did give a lot of people time to reflect on the fact that working two or three jobs at slave wages was not worth it, and found better more meaningful way to use their time (like get education, or stay home with the kids). I would hope that most employees offer sick time, but if they do not then maybe the job is not worth having, plus sick time for side effects is at most one day for most people.

      Biden might not get to decide what you put into your body, but there is 100+ years of case law that says public health officials (part of the government) do have the right to insist that you get vaccinated.

      Coal mining companies make sure employees wear respirators. All kinds of employers make sure people have hearing protection. Fall protection is required in all kinds of jobs. If your company is not looking out for your safety, then perhaps that is not a company that is worthy of working at.

      The threat to the supply chain etc… is that employees end up out sick or even dead from COVID, or that other employees have to qualities because the guy that did not get vaccinated and who was 5-10 time more likely TOO get infected, did get infected and exposed all of his. co-workers.

      Sick people don’t contribute to the economy. Dead people sure don’t contribute to the economy. People living in fear of getting sick are going to pull back on their activities.

      Also, amazingly enough there are scientists all over the world that are watching and studying the situation, and when new information comes along that can be verified from multiple scientific studies, they change the guidance they give. I know at times it can be confusing and over time it seems like conflicting information comes out, but that is the way science works. With new information, smart people change their minds and behavior. I would hope that if you got vaccinated, you would be smart enough to know when you were vaccinated, and then be smart enough to know when you should be getting a booster.

    2. I can’t wait to start making complaints to OSHA! I am going to be one of the many overwhelming OSHA with FALSE reports. Picking on companies who are requiring the mandate. OSHA will be overwhemed with complaints that are false.

      This will create a bottleneck and allow this to play out a bit longer for us who choose against these Gestapo style rules

  5. We have gone from 15 days to bend the curve of hospitalization to you must participate in a drug company clinical trial to keep a job. In under 2 years. Does this raise a red flag to any one.

    Never let a crisis go to waste
    Rahm Emmanual Obama Chief of Staff circa 2010

    1. The only thing that raises a red flag is all the cranks and crack pots who have come out of the woodwork. You’d think the no-show of JFK Jr. the other day would have taken the wind out if their sails a little…

  6. You want a real, scientific reason to consider pausing the implementation of this new rule? How about this news:

    Pfizer Says COVID-19 Pill Cut Hospital, Death Risk by 90%
    https://www.snopes.com/ap/2021/11/05/pfizer-says-covid-19-pill-cut-hospital-death-risk-by-90/

    Of course, that would require the same people who refuse the vaccine … to take a treatment from a drug company, the same one that made the vaccine they are refusing, as opposed to putting their faith and trust into whatever nonsense is fed into their brain by the Facebook algorithm or Fox News.

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