US businesses that flout the Biden administration’s drastic new COVID-19 vaccine mandate could be slapped with massive fines of up to $13,600 for each violation.
President Biden announced Thursday a new Department of Labor requirement that orders businesses with more than 100 employees to require their staff to get vaccinated or be tested weekly.
“And if a workplace refuses to follow the standard, the [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] fines can be quite significant,” White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said during a press briefing Friday.
“Enforcement actions include fines up to $13,600 per violation.”
Federal workers and contractors won’t have a testing option in the sweeping new guidance that covers about two-thirds of the American workforce.
Meanwhile, Zients noted many companies had implemented their own vaccine mandates prior to the federal guidance — helping to boost vaccination rates around the country.
“We’re taking strong action on vaccination requirements and we believe that workplaces are a very efficient and effective [way] to ensure that people get vaccinated or at minimum get tested one time a week,” Zients said.
But what fully vaccinated means to the federal government may change as booster shots are expected to be rolled out in the coming weeks, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Right now, fully vaccinated still means two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna jabs, or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
An advisory committee on immunization will discuss the boosters, Walensky said.
“I anticipate over time that may be updated, but we will leave that to our advisers to give us some recommendations,” Walensky said.
The federal government also plans to spend $2 billion for 280 million COVID rapid tests to expand convenient testing in the nation — despite the fact that the tests are far less accurate than polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.
Walmart, Amazon and Kroger’s will sell at-home testing kits at cost for the next three months, Zients said.
The new requirements from the Department of Labor are part of a several-pronged approach by the administration to combat the pandemic.
The strategy also includes the Transportation Security Administration doubling fines for unmasked passengers.
The US is still averaging more than 136,000 new cases and over 1,000 deaths per day, the White House COVID-19 response team said Friday.
However, the overwhelming majority of Americans who are getting serious cases of COVID-19 or dying are unvaccinated.
Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 30, about 99 percent of hospital admissions were among those who hadn’t been fully inoculated.