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In early September, President Biden announced he was taking steps to get more Americans vaccinated and turn the tide on COVID-19.
On Thursday, the administration rolled out two of those steps — two different vaccine rules covering more than 100 million workers.
Here are the details:
Deadline is Jan. 4: The first rule, issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), covers companies with 100 or more employees and applies to an estimated 84 million workers. Companies must ensure either that their workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4 or that they test negative for the coronavirus at least once a week.
Workers must get paid time off to get vaccinated: Under the OSHA rule, employers must pay workers for the time it takes to get vaccinated and provide sick leave for workers to recover from any side effects.
Employers don’t need to pay for testing: In a move that appears designed to push workers to choose vaccinations over testing, the rule does not require employers to pay for or provide testing to workers who decline the vaccine. However, collective bargaining agreements or other circumstances may dictate otherwise.
Unvaccinated people must wear masks: Unvaccinated workers must also wear face coverings while on the job. This requirement goes into effect Dec. 6.
Health care workers don’t have a testing option under a separate rule: A second rule issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services requires some 17 million health care workers to be vaccinated by the same deadline, Jan. 4, but with no option for weekly testing in lieu of vaccination. The rule covers all employees — clinical and nonclinical — at about 76,000 health care facilities that receive federal funding from Medicare or Medicaid.
Earlier, Biden had ordered federal workers and contractors to be vaccinated, with no testing option. Federal workers have until Nov. 22 to get the shots, while federal contractors have until Jan. 4.
Vaccine requirements have proved successful, but a backlash is expected
In rolling out the new rules, Biden administration officials said vaccine requirements are good for the economy and hailed the success of vaccine mandates, with only a small fraction of workers choosing to leave their jobs rather than comply. Employers from Tyson Foods to the Houston Methodist hospital system have reported vaccination rates topping 96%.
But well before the details of the rules were released, there was backlash from Republican-led states, with two dozen state attorneys general threatening to sue the Biden administration.
In a letter addressed to Biden on Sept. 16, they warned that a vaccine…