The Biden administration has temporarily suspended enforcement of a regulation requiring businesses with 100 or more employees to either mandate COVID-19 vaccination for all their workers or ensure that unvaccinated workers wear masks and are tested for COVID at least once a week.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) noted on its website Monday that on November 12, a U.S. appeals court “granted a motion to stay OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), published on November 5. The court ordered that OSHA ‘take no steps to implement or enforce’ the ETS ‘until further court order.’”
“While OSHA remains confident in its authority to protect workers in emergencies, OSHA has suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the ETS pending future developments in the litigation,” the website said. OSHA had been hit with multiple lawsuits from states and private businesses objecting to the rule.
The two rules combined, in addition to previous regulations, will extend vaccination requirements to roughly two-thirds of all employees nationwide, including 17 million healthcare workers and 84 million employees, officials said on that call. The penalty for a single citation is approximately $14,000, they noted. For “willful penalties,” employers can be fined 10 times that amount, roughly $140,000.
As for the agency’s legal authority to implement an ETS, a senior administration official said that 745,000 American deaths does indeed meet the criteria for a standard of “grave danger,” and the standard is also “necessary” to protect workers.
Even before the ETS was issued, 24 state attorneys general had threatened to file lawsuits if the Biden administration moved forward with vaccine-or-test rules for private businesses. And soon after the rules were announced, the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Dhillon Law Group introduced a challenge to the Biden administration’s rules on behalf of the Daily Wire, a conservative news site.
The suspension does not affect a separate rule issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which mandates that all healthcare workers whose organisations receive funding from Medicare or Medicaid be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4, 2022. “We have a higher bar for healthcare workers, given their critical role in ensuring the health and safety of their patients,” a senior administration official stated during a background phone call with reporters the evening before the rule was announced. Healthcare workers will not have the option to submit to weekly testing in lieu of a vaccine.
- Article by Joyce Frieden, Washington Editor, MedPage Today November 17, 2021.
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