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COVID vaccine mandate for large employers set for January 4

The Biden administration set a January 4 deadline on Thursday for employees at large companies to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or face weekly tests and mandatory mask-wearing on the job, a move that impacts 84 million private-sector workers.

Seventeen million employees at health care facilities that receive federal funding from Medicare or Medicaid will not have the testing option.

Failure to abide by the new rules – which were previewed in September – will result in fines that start at “$13,653 each and go as high as $136,532 per violation if employers are found to be willfully non-compliant or repeat offenses.”

“A virus that has killed more than 745,000 Americans, with more than 70,000 new cases per day currently, is clearly a health hazard that poses a grave danger to workers,” a senior administration official told reporters.

Outside of testing, all other requirements – such as masking for unvaccinated employees – must be completed in 30 days.

The Washington Post reports on the Republican pushback:

“Republican attorneys general in at least 24 states have vowed to fight the rule in court, and one, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R), has already filed a lawsuit against the federal government over it. Some state governments, including Missouri’s, are pledging to explore legislation that could exempt their state from the requirement.”

“But officials from OSHA and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told reporters that the new rules “preempt” any state or local laws that seek to ban or limit employer authority for vaccination, masks and testing, like one that Republicans in Texas passed recently. They said they plan to take action if states that have their own state occupational health plans, which are required to be at least as stringent as the federal rules, do not comply with the federal plan.”

The mandate-or-testing requirement is part of a multipronged plan announced by the White House to combat the effects of COVID-19. Additional components include mandating the vaccine for federal employees and federal contractors and expanding at-home testing access.

 

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