President Biden’s private-sector COVID-19 vaccine mandate will take effect Jan. 4, administration officials said Thursday — with fines of up to $14,000 per infraction for employers that don’t comply.
The regulation is likely to be challenged in court, but a Biden administration official said on a press call that the rule overrides any state policy against coronavirus vaccine mandates.
The mandate applies to businesses with 100 or more employees — or about 84 million people, officials said.
Employers will need to adopt policies that either require all workers to get their final vaccine shot by Jan. 4 or policies that allow unvaccinated workers to keep their jobs if they submit to weekly testing and mask-wearing.
The Jan. 4 deadline also will apply to two other Biden vaccine mandates impacting federal contractors and about 17 million healthcare workers, with certain medical and religious exemptions. There’s a Dec. 8 compliance deadline for people employed directly by the federal government.
Biden said in early September that he would impose the raft of mandates after the Delta variant of COVID-19 drove a new wave of coronavirus cases and ended what he had branded a “summer of freedom” from the deadly virus.
“A distinct minority of Americans supported by a distinct minority of elected officials are keeping us from turning the corner,” Biden said Sept. 9. “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us.”
Biden said critics of the mandates can “have at it” and the rules are expected to be challenged in court.
The Republican National Committee says it will sue over the private-sector rule and Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order last month claiming to nullify the federal mandate for the state’s businesses.
A Biden administration official told reporters that private sector mandate — issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration — “preempts states and political subdivisions of states from adopting and enforcing workplace requirements relating to these issues except under the authority of a federally approved state plan.”
The official said “the OSH Act provides that OSHA standards preempt any state occupational safety or health standard ‘relating to the same occupational safety or health issue’ as the federal OSHA standard.”
According to CDC data, 80.2 percent of US adults are fully vaccinated and about 70 percent are fully vaccinated. The new policy requires workers to get their the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine or both shots of the two-doze Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.