White House moves forward with vaccination mandates: 8 details

The White House is moving forward with requirements aimed at boosting the number of Americans who are vaccinated against COVID-19.

On Sept. 9, President Joe Biden unveiled his administration's multipronged pandemic approach, which includes a requirement that all private employers with 100 or more employees ensure their staff are fully vaccinated or undergo weekly testing. President Biden's administration is also requiring that federal executive branch workers, as well as employees of contractors that do business with the federal government, be vaccinated, with limited medical and religious exemptions.

Additionally, CMS said it will require COVID-19 vaccinations for more than 17 million healthcare workers at Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals and in other healthcare settings.

Here are eight details about the mandates and related plans:

Federal workers, contractors

1. On Nov. 1, the federal government released guidance on the vaccination requirement for federal contractors. The guidance gives federal contractors flexibility regarding enforcement of the vaccination requirements for workers who refuse to get inoculated, according to CNBC. The guidelines, which affect millions of workers, state, "A covered contractor should determine the appropriate means of enforcement with respect to its employee at a covered contractor workplace who refuses to be vaccinated and has not been provided, or does not have a pending request for, an accommodation."

2. The vaccination deadline for federal employees is Nov. 22, while the deadline for contractors is Dec. 8. Even after those dates, Jeff Zients, the White House's COVID-19 response coordinator, said federal agencies and contractors should educate, counsel and accommodate unvaccinated workers to convince them to get vaccinated before firing them, according to The Washington Post.

Private-sector businesses

3. The Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration is tasked with issuing an emergency temporary standard to implement the requirement for private-sector businesses. A Labor Department spokesperson, in a statement issued Nov. 1, said private-sector businesses covered under the emergency temporary standard "must develop, implement and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, unless they adopt a policy requiring workers to get vaccinated or to undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at work." The Labor Department spokesperson said the emergency temporary standard requires these employers to provide paid time off to workers to get vaccinated and paid sick leave to recover from any side effects. 

4. The mandate covering private-sector businesses could also allow employers to make workers who refuse to get the shot pay for required COVID-19 testing and masks, two sources familiar with the matter told Bloomberg. The rule would allow employers to either pay for testing and masks for unvaccinated workers or make those workers pay for the masks and testing themselves, according to Bloomberg's sources, who requested anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the rulemaking. 

5. Officials at the White House Office of Management and Budget have completed their regulatory review of the emergency temporary standard covering private-sector businesses, according to the Labor Department. The department anticipates the Federal Register will publish the emergency temporary standard "in the coming days." 

6. The vaccination mandate covering private-sector businesses, as well as the one for federal contractors, has garnered opposition from Republican-led states, according to The Wall Street Journal. The newspaper reported Nov. 1 that 10 Republican-led states sued President Biden's administration in October to stop the contractor mandate, and Arizona filed a lawsuit in September to stop the broader private-sector one.

Healthcare facilities

7. The government's requirement for healthcare workers at Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals and in other healthcare settings applies to hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings and home health agencies. It expands on the CMS announcement Aug. 18 that nursing homes must have staff vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition for receiving federal funds.

8. CMS, in a statement shared with Becker's Nov. 2, said the government will soon issue an emergency regulation related to the vaccination requirement and urged healthcare workers employed by covered facilities who are not vaccinated to begin the process immediately. "Facilities are urged to use all available resources to support employee vaccinations, including employee education and clinics, as they work to keep their staff and patients safe," the agency added. 


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