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OSHA releases COVID-19 vaccine mandate rule for millions of workers

OSHA estimates the mandate will save the lives of 6,500 workers and prevent more than 250,000 hospitalizations over the next six months.


Workers at companies with more than 100 employees have until Jan. 4, 2022, to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or face weekly testing and a requirement to wear a mask while at work, according to a rule published Thursday by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 

Companies that fail to comply with the regulations could face penalties of nearly $14,000 per employee who doesn’t meet the requirements. The rule will impact 84 million workers the federal government estimates. 

OSHA estimates that the vaccine mandate will prevent the deaths of more than 6,500 workers and prevent more than 250,000 hospitalizations through April. 

Businesses won’t be required to pay for the weekly testing of employees who decline to get vaccinated, but companies will be required to establish a policy to track the COVID-19 vaccination status of their employees, according to the rule. 

Those companies will have to give employees paid time off to get vaccinated and recover from any side effects, if they have them. 

OSHA’s rule states that it “will preempt inconsistent state and local requirements, including requirements that ban or limit employers’ authority to require vaccination.” 

Employees can ask for exemptions from the vaccine mandate on medical or religious grounds, according to the rule. OSHA’s rule will cover approximately 84 million workers. 

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Thursday announced that the approximately 17 million people working in nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities that receive funds through Medicare and Medicaid will have until Jan. 4 to become fully vaccinated. There’s no option for those workers to instead be tested weekly, according to the federal agency. 

“The rule applies to employees regardless of whether their positions are clinical or non-clinical and includes employees, students, trainees, and volunteers who work at a covered facility that receives federal funding from Medicare or Medicaid,” the White House said in a statement

There have been 15,676 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Alabama, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. 

“The virus will not go away by itself, or because we wish it away: we have to act,” President Joe Biden said in a statement Thursday. “Vaccination is the single best pathway out of this pandemic. And while I would have much preferred that requirements not become necessary, too many people remain unvaccinated for us to get out of this pandemic for good. So I instituted requirements – and they are working.” 

The number of unvaccinated Americans over the age of 12 has fallen from approximately 100 million in late July, when Biden began issuing vaccination requirements, to about 60 million today, Biden said. 

“Vaccination requirements are good for the economy. They not only increase vaccination rates but they help send people back to work – as many as 5 million American workers, Biden said. 

Alabama lawmakers Thursday passed two anti-vaccine mandate bills during a special session meant to address redistricting and an appropriation of $80 million in federal COVID aid to state hospitals and nursing homes.

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The Business Council of Alabama on Tuesday said anti-vaccine mandate bills would cause confusion and put jobs at risk. 

The America Cancer Society in a statement Monday urged Alabama lawmakers to refrain from passing those bills. 

“On behalf of the millions of patients, survivors and their families across the state, we are concerned about the bills proposed in the Legislature. By prohibiting  vaccine requirements for individuals that interact with patients, these proposals undermine organizations’ ability to protect immunocompromised individuals  – a grave concern for entities like ourselves as well as hospital systems that serve cancer patients directly,” the statement reads. 

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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