Under government rules issued on Thursday and approved by the Biden administration, millions of Americans who work at companies with 100 or more employees will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4 OR instead get tested for the virus weekly. Originally the date was Dec. 8.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said companies that don’t comply could face penalties of up to $14,000 per violation.
The new requirements will affect about 84 million workers at medium and large businesses, although it is not clear how many of those employees are currently unvaccinated.
However, the option for testing weekly is not available to 17 million people who work in nursing homes, hospitals, and other facilities that receive money from Medicare and Medicaid. BUT, workers will be able to ask for exemptions on medical or religious grounds.
It doesn’t seem as if OSHA has a plan to enforce these rules. A senior administration official, however, said the agency would target companies if it receives complaints.
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.
Workers will need to receive either two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by Jan. 4. Unvaccinated employees must submit a verified negative test to the company at least once a week and wear face masks on the job.
Employees who test positive must be removed from the workplace until negative.
OSHA will require businesses to provide 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.
Because vaccines are free, OSHA said, companies do not have to provide or pay for tests.