National vaccine mandates begin for health care workers

The Biden Administration has an ambitious to-do list. And at the top of it is executing its Path out of the Pandemic memo issued on September 9, 2021. The goal is to create consistent health and safety standards across the country. Following new Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines, the administration sees the ambitious plan’s first priority as Vaccinating the Unvaccinated.

This regulation issued as an Emergency Temporary Standard calls for all businesses with 100 or more employees to mandate vaccines or weekly testing. Notably, it also requires vaccines or weekly negative tests for the 17 million healthcare employees working in hospitals, clinics, elder care facilities, and businesses participating in Medicare and Medicaid. This mandate includes doctors, nurses, support staff, attendants and even administrators with no direct contact with patients, clients or residents. It also applies to employees working from home. Of course, exceptions will be made for those with closely held religious beliefs or a qualifying medical reason.

California healthcare ahead of the game

The state instituted its own measures on July 26 when the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued an order requiring health care facilities to confirm employees’ vaccination status or institute mandatory testing the unvaccinated staff each week (twice per week in acute care and long-term care settings). The unvaccinated must also wear a surgical mask or an OSHA-approved respirator. Workers must have at least one dose of the two-dose varieties by September 30.

Will these regulations hold up?

There will likely be much political maneuvering in the coming weeks, and the Supreme Court may have to weigh in on this matter. On the other hand, companies will likely continue to push to make their worksites as safe as possible for workers and customers – after all, shutdowns lead to business losses. Moreover, the numbers of staff likely to fall ill are much higher than the number of workers who will quit because of vaccination or testing being a requirement for employment. Since it is mandated for health care workers, the federal law will also likely provide relief to California’s healthcare employers. They will likely lose less staff since employees can’t move to other states to avoid California’s mandate.