President Biden’s plan to boost America’s vaccination rate is targeting employers across the country. In a speech Thursday afternoon, Biden announced all employers with more than 100 employees, or any employer utilizing Medicare or Medicaid will be required to have either all employees vaccinated or start testing daily so each employee can provide one negative test per week. The new burden on private businesses is a big step that offices and other employment facilities around the country will be rushing to comply with.
The administration’s apparent flipflop about the role of the federal government as it relates to private employer mandates targets the roughly 80 million Americans that remain unvaccinated. Biden also signed an executive order requiring all employees of the executive branch and contractors that do business with the federal government to require vaccinations for all employees, which accounts for roughly 4 million Americans. In total, Biden’s plans will impact roughly 100 million Americans. A little more than two weeks after the FDA fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, President Biden is using broad federal authority, and some say overreach, in his effort to end the pandemic.
“This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated, it’s caused by the fact that despite America having an unprecedented and successful vaccination program, despite the fact that for 5 months free vaccines have been available in 80,000 locations, we still have nearly 80 million Americans who have failed to get the shot,” President Biden said from the White House. “The unvaccinated overcrowd our hospitals, are overrunning our emergency rooms and intensive care units.”
The President’s order will be enforced by the Department of Labor, through the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA), which will issue an emergency temporary standard to implement the new requirement. OSHA will fine violators $14,000 per violation. While some legal experts’ early predictions favor OSHA’s authority, the new mandate will certainly be challenged. Some employers and state governors have already taken to social media announcing their intent to challenge the order.
Many employers haven’t waited for federal authority to require vaccinations. Goldman Sachs, Chevron, CVS Health, Fox News, Google, Citigroup, and other of the nation’s most high-profile employers already have some form of vaccine mandate, often with medical or religious exemptions. Vaccination efforts have reached the majority of those eligible. According to the CDC, about 75 percent of the adult U.S. population has received at least one vaccine dose, and 64.4 percent of the adult U.S. population is fully vaccinated. Convincing the Americans who remain unvaccinated is proving to be the biggest challenge in ending the pandemic according to the White House. Apparently tired of dangling carrots, Federal authorities will now begin using a stick. The new requirement for employers is one part of a six-part plan to get America over Biden’s vaccination goal line.
Providing weekly testing for employees will be challenging from a facilities standpoint, especially for companies that are working remotely. How office staff can help facilitate daily testing for large tenants that choose to allow their employees to remain unvaccinated will be a challenge for each employer to figure out. The move is undoubtedly the broadest use of federal authority since the pandemic began. Unpacking the legality of the order and what it means for employers and office building operators remains to be seen, but what’s clear is the Biden administration has shifted its fight for nationwide vaccine compliance into a higher gear.