President Biden Mandates COVID-19 Vaccines for Feds, Many Other Workers

President Joe Biden on Sept. 9, 2021, issued an executive order and spelled out a multiprong plan to slow the spread of the delta variant of the novel coronavirus. The goal is to keep America’s businesses, schools and entertainment venues open as infections, hospitalizations and deaths return to pandemic highs. You can read the full details of what the White House is calling its “Path Out of the Pandemic” here.

Three aspects of the plan will most directly affect the public sector workforce.

First, all federal employees and contractors will be required to take COVID-19 vaccinations. Guidance on implementing this policy will be published by Sept. 17, 2021. Frequent testing will not be offered as an alternative for individuals who choose not to get vaccinated. Exemptions for religious beliefs and medical conditions will be granted, but requests for such exemptions will be reviewed.

Second, President Biden ordered OSHA to publish rules for every employer that employs more than 100 people to mandate COVID vaccination as a condition of employment. Frequent testing will be an alternative, and religious exemptions may be granted.

It appears larger public sector agencies will have to comply with the new rule. This report walks readers through OSHA jurisdiction over public schools and other state and local government agencies. Current OSHA guidance for protecting workers during the pandemic is collected on this website.

Third, workers at all Medicare- and Medicaid-certified must take vaccines. CMS will develop the regulation and guidance for this policy.

Vaccine mandates will soon cover an estimated 100 million workers in the United States. The newest requirements join earlier federal, state and local mandates for members of the military, employees at veteran health care facilities, other health care providers, state government workers in some states, public school teachers and staff, and college students. The Los Angeles United School District recently became the first to require COVID vaccinations for all students older than 12. Other K-12 schools have started requiring vaccines for student-athletes.

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