President Joe Biden announced widespread COVID-19 testing and vaccine mandates on Thursday, September 9th. These measures are intended both to stem the tide of the pandemic and encourage more Americans to get vaccinated. The number of Covid cases in the United States has risen roughly 8% in the past 14 days, and just 54% of the total population is currently vaccinated.
The measures that President Biden laid out will require all private-sector firms in the United States that have 100 or more employees must ensure their staff is either fully vaccinated or being tested regularly. Biden indicated that this strategy will impact around 100 million Americans. As part of the vaccine requirement, companies must provide paid time off for their employees to get themselves vaccinated.
There are two types of Covid testing strategies: diagnostic, which is used to identify current infections, and screening, which is used to evaluate asymptomatic individuals and pool samples.
There are also two categories of tests: Antigen and PCR tests. Antigen tests are mostly used for rapid testing with results usually in under 30 minutes and are a nasal or throat swab. PCR tests also take a sample from a nose or throat swab but take more time to provide results. Standard PCR tests may take up to 7 days to return while Quality Health Care Concierge prides itself on returning results for PCR tests in as little as 5 hours!
Experts say that the new mandates aren’t likely to quickly make an impact on infection rates, but they will go a long way to mitigating future waves.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will be formulating and enforcing the new requirements as they get rolled out. It’s important to distinguish that while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides guidelines, OSHA develops rules.
Many employees and job candidates are excited to get back to the office after more than a year working from home. However, it’s important that employers have a clear health and safety plan in place to answer any potential questions and allay concerns, and clearly communicate that plan. Regular temperature checks, enhanced cleaning protocols, and socially distanced cubicles are just a few of the ways that employers can demonstrate a commitment to health and safety.
According to the CDC, office buildings should be evaluated to see if they are ready for occupancy before workers come back. Prolonged facility shutdown carries its own set of hazards, such as mold growth and rodents or pests. Ventilation systems should be updated, and outdoor air circulation should be increased as much as is reasonably possible.
Employers should also identify any common areas where employees could have less than 6 feet of distance between colleagues. Entrances and exits areas, waiting rooms, and cafeterias are just a few bottleneck examples.
The vaccine and testing mandates aren’t limited to private employers. Biden announced that federal contractors and workers will also be required to be vaccinated. There will be some exemptions permitted for medical or religious reasons. It is also unclear whether Remote workers are to be counted in the threshold, how long employers must maintain vaccination records, whether a PCR or Antigen test is required, and also, will this fall on the employers to pay for the testing. One element is for sure, once OSHA kicks off with these measure (in about 90-days or so from the announcement), the fine will be $14k per violation for employers that do not follow the vaccination or covid testing for employers mandate.
President Biden urged unvaccinated adults to get the vaccine. Major companies belonging to the Consumer Brands Association asked Biden to clarify if this means workers should provide documentation showing proof of vaccination before returning to the office.