Biden Unveils New Action Plan To Combat Surging Covid Crisis
On the heels of the escalating Covid Delta variant crisis, President Joe Biden today announced the launch of a new aggressive six-pronged battle plan that will impact an estimated 100 million Americans and companies and organizations across the country.
The New York Times noted that, “The sweeping actions are the most expansive Mr. Biden has taken to control the pandemic since he assumed the presidency in January, and will affect almost every aspect of American society.”
The Biden Plan
Employers With 100 Or More Workers
- Requires all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated. Any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work.
- This requirement will impact over 80 million workers in private sector businesses with 100+ employees.
Federal Workers And Contractors
- Requires all federal executive branch workers and federal contractors to be vaccinated.
- Requires Covid-19 vaccinations for workers in most health care settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, including but not limited to hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings, and home health agencies.
- Calls on entertainment venues like sports arenas, large concert halls, and other venues where large groups of people gather to require that their patrons be vaccinated or show a negative test for entry.
Paid Time Off
- Requires employers with more than 100 employees to provide paid time off for the time it takes for workers to get vaccinated or to recover if they are under the weather post-vaccination.
Keeping Schools Safely Open
- Actions to ensure all schools consistently implement these science-based prevention strategies recommended by the CDC so that they can remain open for in-person learning and maintain the health and safety of all students, staff, and families.
Leveraging Frustration And Anger
Robert C. Rowland, a professor in the department of communication studies at the University of Kansas, observed that Biden’s speech and policies he advocated, “were well adapted to respond to a situation in which tens of millions do not trust the medical consensus about vaccines.
“Biden's focus was on leveraging the frustration and anger of the vaccinated to create both a sense of social solidarity and guilt among the unvaccinated to pressure them to get the vaccine. He also used the Federal power of the purse to essentially tap the power of the private sector to require employees to be mandated.
“His focus was not on changing the minds of the unvaccinated. He cited the scientific consensus on the effectiveness of vaccines, using slogans, such as ‘free, safe, and convenient,’ to emphasize his point, but did not provide the detailed explanation needed to change minds. Recognizing that he was probably not the right person to make a pitch to many of the unvaccinated, he encouraged their personal doctors to do so,” he noted.
‘A Real Game Changer For Many Employers’
Impetus To Mandate Vaccinations
Steve Bell is a partner at the international law firm of Dorsey & Whitney in its labor and employment practice. He’s advised employers on how to handle vaccine issues/mandates with workers. Bell said today’s announcement by President Biden “is a real game changer for many employers. Now that the federal government will be mandating vaccinations for federal employees and contractors, the impetus for other employers to mandate vaccinations for the workforce will increase exponentially.
“The fact that the largest employer in the U.S. (the federal government) is mandating vaccines will give comfort to private employers who have been hesitant to require vaccines. It may also set the standard for what a reasonable employer should be doing in the face of this continuing epidemic," Bell said.
Kathryn Bakich is the health compliance practice leader and senior vice president at employee benefits consulting firm The Segal Group [there is no connection between the firm and this author]. She said, “This is the first vaccine mandate ever applicable to private employers. Employers are moving toward mandatory vaccination policies at great speed.
“Those that are not mandating vaccines are considering whether they can implement premium differentials in their health plans to penalize employees who won’t get the vaccine. Wellness regulations currently permit incentives and penalties for taking legitimate health-related steps, so a Covid-19 vaccination incentive should be permissible. I would expect that the Biden administration would move to help employers by explicitly issuing guidance to permit these incentives,” she said.
Some Relief For Employers
Devjani Mishra, a leader of the Littler Mendelson law firm’s Covid-19 task force said, “the fact that these rules will apply across the board to companies with more than 100 employees may also offer some relief to employers who have been reluctant to impose mandates.
“Throughout 2021, we’ve seen that employers have been thinking very hard about whether to require workplace vaccinations, the ramifications this could have for their workplaces and whether they risk losing employees. The administration’s approach will help equalize the playing field and take some pressure off employers who have been concerned about moving too fast or too early in this important area,” Mishra observed.