OSHA’s Vaccine Mandate for Workers Goes Into Effect Jan. 10 — Best Life


Health officials and private corporations first introduced vaccine mandates in the U.S. over the summer, partly as a response to the new and highly transmissible Delta variant. Over the course of the past few months, new requirements have popped up, but a newer and more infectious variant has prompted even more officials to take a look at their policies. The Omicron variant—which was first detected on Nov. 24—has become the dominant variant in the U.S. with alarming speed, accounting for 73 percent of cases in the country as of Dec. 20, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Virus experts have said that this iteration of the virus means that vaccinations are even more necessary, making vaccine mandates potentially more important as well.

RELATED: Unvaccinated People Will Be Barred From Here, Starting Jan. 3.

But vaccine mandates have invited their fair share of backlash. A November injunction had blocked a rule from the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which initially set a Jan. 4 deadline for large companies to mandate COVID vaccinations for workers as part of President Joe Biden’s Path Out of the Pandemic plan. However, on Dec. 17, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the block, according to OSHA.

“OSHA can now once again implement this vital workplace health standard, which will protect the health of workers by mitigating the spread of the unprecedented virus in the workplace,” the department said in a statement.

In order to allow employers time to meet the requirements after the ruling was blocked for weeks, OSHA said it will be extending the mandate by nearly a week. According to the department’s statement, OSHA will not enforce the vaccine mandate or issue citations for noncompliances before Jan. 10.

The vaccine requirement covers companies with 100 or more employees, meaning that about 84 million U.S. workers are required to get vaccinated—making it one of the largest overarching vaccine mandates in the country. Some companies, like United Airlines and Google, have already decided to bar unvaccinated workers, but OSHA’s official ruling says that employees who are not fully vaccinated must wear masks and be subject to weekly COVID tests.

Workers who refuse to get vaccinated have to pay for weekly tests and masks, and giving employees the option to test weekly instead of getting vaccinated is at the discretion of each company, according to Forbes. “The new OSHA rule establishes a floor for safety—not a ceiling. Many businesses have already agreed to institute a full vaccination requirement without a testing option,” Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh and White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients explained in a joint op-ed for USA Today in November.

Companies that do decide to allow a testing option must comply with the testing requirement by Feb. 9, as OSHA will start handing out citations for non-compliance on this date.

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The court’s new ruling has been appealed. At least three petitions were filed with the U.S. Supreme Court within hours of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling, according to Reuters. “While we are disappointed in the Court’s decision, we will continue to fight the illegal mandate in the Supreme Court, We are confident the mandate can be stopped,” South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson tweeted on Dec. 17.

But the court has stood beside its decision. “It is difficult to imagine what more OSHA could do or rely on to justify its finding that workers face a grave danger in the workplace,” the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ opinion said. “It is not appropriate to second-guess that agency determination considering the substantial evidence, including many peer-reviewed scientific studies, on which it relied.”

The White House also praised the court’s decision, particularly amid the fast-spreading Omicron variant. “The OSHA vaccination or testing rule will ensure businesses enact measures that will protect their employees,” Kevin Munoz, a White House spokesman, said in a statement to The New York Times. “Especially as the U.S. faces the highly transmissible Omicron variant, it’s critical we move forward with vaccination requirements and protections for workers with the urgency needed in this moment.”

RELATED: People Who Haven’t Gotten a Booster Will Be Barred From This, as of Jan. 17.





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