Last week President Biden announced that his executive branch agencies are implementing a several-pronged strategy to 1) improve vaccination rates; 2) better protect folks that have already been vaccinated; 3) keep schools safer and improve chances for in-person learning; 4) increase testing and masking; and 5) improve care for the people that do get infected.
I won’t go into the details of the entire plan here, but you can read the various elements on the White House website. Perhaps the most significant initiative is an upcoming OSHA regulation that will require all employers with more than 100 staff to ensure that their team is vaccinated or be tested weekly. Noncompliance will result in financial penalties for the employer. All federal employees will need to become vaccinated. Federal contractors will even be required to vaccinate their staff or do weekly testing (presumably via contract amendment).
Legal expert and AzPHA member Jen Piatt wrote this analysis for the Network for Public Health Law which concludes that case law supports reasonable vaccine mandates by political jurisdictions. The report also delves a bit into the mission of OSHA and their enabling act which supports OSHA’s authority to implement this kind of workplace safety requirement. The report contains several supporting references. The provisions will become effective once OSHA promulgates their final emergency rule.
Another significant part of the President’s plan requires healthcare facilities that get paid via Medicaid or Medicare to ensure that their teams are vaccinated. This is important because vaccination rates are still quite low in many care settings like nursing homes. See this article in the Republic by Stephanie Innes & Alison Steinbach Vaccination rates at Arizona nursing homes vary widely.
Editorial Note: Naturally, Governor Ducey is openly hostile to the sensible measures in the President’s plan and has threatened to ‘push back hard’. Perhaps we’ll find out next week how he intends to use his authority and state agencies to ‘push back’.
Perhaps he will order the ADHS not to enforce the new CMS requirements (ADHS’ Licensing Division provides CMS Certifications). Perhaps he will order the state OSHA program at the Industrial Commission to be uncooperative? Perhaps last week’s temper tantrum will be the only push back?