The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Biden Announces New COVID-19 Mitigation Plan

On September 9, President Biden released a new COVID-19 mitigation plan, which includes several new requirements and recommendations for employers, employees, schools and others across the country. The six-part plan includes new policies and strategies to vaccinate more unvaccinated individuals, administer booster shots, keep schools safely open, increase testing facilities and products, protect economic recovery, and improve treatments for COVID-19.

New Vaccine Requirements for Many Employers and Employees

In the new plan, the Biden administration announced that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing a rule to require all employers under OSHA’s jurisdiction with 100 or more employees “to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work.” Additionally, OSHA is developing a rule that will require these same employers to provide paid time off to their employees to allow them to get vaccinated and recover from post-vaccination symptoms. According to the plan, both of these rules will be implemented by OSHA through an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), though when the ETS will be issued is still unknown. Importantly, while OSHA’s direct jurisdiction is limited to private sector employers, the ETS requirements could extend to many state and local government employers as detailed in the February 2021 CRS report.

In addition to the requirements for employers with 100 or more employees, the plan also announced that healthcare workers at Medicare and Medicaid participating healthcare settings will be required to be vaccinated. Unlike the requirements for employers with 100 or more employees, these requirements do not allow for a testing option in lieu of getting vaccinated. According to the announcement, this requirement will apply to over 17 million healthcare workers across the country.

Lastly, the plan states that President Biden signed two Executive Orders that will require all federal executive branch workers and federal contractors to be vaccinated. Unlike previous Biden administration policies on vaccine mandates for federal employees and contractors, the new requirements will no longer provide the option for unvaccinated employees to undergo regular testing instead of getting vaccinated, “with exceptions only as required by law.”

COVID-19 Testing and Booster Shots

In addition to these new vaccine requirements, the plan lays out the Biden administration’s plans to expand and improve testing and to provide booster shots to eligible Americans. According to the plan, booster shots will begin during the week of September 20 after the Food and Drug Administration authorizes their use.

President Calls on Entertainment Venues to Require Vaccination or Negative Tests

While not directly mandating, the president’s plan also calls on entertainment venues such as sports arenas, large concert halls and other venues where large groups of people gather — many of which are common to campuses — to require that their patrons be vaccinated or show a negative test for entry.

As the Biden administration moves forward with implementing this new plan, CUPA-HR will continue to keep members apprised of any new guidance or requirements that come from this announcement.