Biden, awaiting OSHA rule, urges companies to require vaccination

President Biden on Thursday appealed to private companies to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for employees, calling them the initiative as part of an effort he made last month to create a lengthy rule requiring 80 million American workers to get the shot. Have to go through the process and cannot go through it. effect for the week.

The president, commenting at a construction site outside Chicago, said that encouraging Americans to get vaccinated had helped, but it was not enough to stave off the pandemic.

“Even after all these efforts, we still have more than a quarter of people in the United States who are eligible for vaccination but didn’t get the shot,” Biden said. “That’s why I’ve had to move to requirements.”

He said the mandate was not his first instinct, but the requirements were “already proving that they work.”

Mr Biden said in September that he would use the full force of his presidency to vaccinate some 80 million American workers against the coronavirus, reaching out to the private sector to ensure that all companies with more than 100 workers are covered. Vaccination or weekly testing is required. . He ordered the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to draft a new rule that would make those requirements enforceable, a process that White House officials said at the time would take at least three or four weeks.

The president said Thursday that the rule would be implemented quickly, but officials familiar with the process said it was likely to take several more weeks.

Meanwhile, Mr Biden sought to shift responsibility to companies, which he said would help lift the United States out of the pandemic: “Businesses have more than ever to change the arc of this pandemic and save lives.” There’s more power.”

A report released Thursday by the White House and shared with trade groups sought to show how the vaccine mandate had helped persuade more people to get their shots: 78 percent of eligible adults did have at least taken their first dose, and data released in September shows non-vaccinated Americans are 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19.

Several large companies – such as 3M, AT&T and Procter & Gamble – as well as many of the largest US aerospace and defense companies – including Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman – have said they will implement the new requirements. According to a report released by the White House on Thursday

Mr Biden chose to visit the Chicago area partly because it is home to United Airlines, one of the first major carriers to require shots for its 67,000 US employees. Other airlines have followed similar requirements, including American Airlines, Southwest, JetBlue and Alaska Airlines. The president spoke at a site controlled by Kleko, a construction company that needs vaccines and testing for its employees.

IBM said Thursday that it will require all of its US employees to be fully vaccinated by December 8, regardless of the number of times they come to the office. This would allow for “limited” medical or religious exceptions. The company is one of several others whose federal contractors are facing their own vaccine mandate, which is set to take effect on December 8. Those guidelines are stricter than the rules proposed for private employers and are no substitute for non-vaccination to undergo routine testing. instead of vaccination. But they could encourage companies with both sets of workers, such as IBM and many airlines, to introduce more comprehensive vaccine mandates.

A White House official said the administration expects many companies to eventually announce only vaccine policies.

Still, retailers are eyeing the run-up to the holiday season, which is crucial to their annual sales and for which finding labor was a challenge due to the pandemic. Some employers have expressed concern that the mandate could further reduce workers who have already been battered, especially in hospitals and other health care facilities. So far, fears have been exaggerated that there will be a mass exodus of health workers dissatisfied with the mandate.

“When you see the headlines and the news of mass shootings and hundreds of people losing their jobs, look at the bigger story,” Mr Biden said.

Other companies, such as JPMorgan Chase and Walmart, have yet to issue comprehensive requirements. OSHA standards will require reluctant companies to introduce mandates.

“I know a few big companies that are ready to email all employees, and they’re waiting for that to come out,” said Joseph Allen, an associate professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Advises companies on COVID-19 strategies. “If they’re going to spend the next two months completely getting 100 percent of the word on rule making, that defeats the purpose.”

Experts say an OSHA rule would be part of the pressure by giving employers clear instructions, but the agency must first set standards that are legally passed.

Several Republican governors have said they would challenge a formal vaccine mandate. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in September that his state was “already working to stop this power grab.” Missouri Governor Mike Parson called the mandate “potentially dangerous” for working families. Arizona’s Republican Attorney General Mark Branovich filed suit against the OSHA rule, threatening that attorneys general in 23 other states could follow suit.

“I know vaccination requirements are tough medicine,” Mr Biden said on Thursday, addressing some of the criticism. “Unpopular with some. Politics to others. But they are life savers. They are game changing for our country.”

Experts said the legal challenges to the rule were all convincing, but the precedent is most likely in Biden’s favor. Over the past 20 years, “every standard that has been challenged in court has been upheld by federal judges,” said David Michaels, a professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health who headed OSHA during the Obama administration. said. an interview.

OSHA also has the authority to immediately issue a rule, known as an emergency temporary standard, if it can show that workers are exposed to serious danger and the rule is necessary to address it. The rules should also be feasible for employers to enforce.

The rule-making process, overseen by a team of about a dozen agency officials and lawyers, involves several rigorous, time-consuming steps to deal with legal challenges. According to an official familiar with the directive, officials were only given a week’s notice before Biden’s announcement.

OSHA is also working through the long list of questions that business groups have sent to guide guidance on the finer points of vaccine mandates, including concerns about who will pay for testing and whether booster shots are also mandatory. Will be The agency is also preparing guidance that would require employers to provide paid time off to receive and recover vaccinations, as ordered by Biden.

Jordan Barb, former OSHA deputy assistant secretary, said, “Between getting it right and making sure that employers can actually comply, and also making sure it will stand up to court challenge, I think there’s a lot to be said for it.” It might take a while.” Interview. “It’s not an easy thing to do.”

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