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Biden mandate means 2 million Michigan workers must get COVID vaccine

Michigan workers falling under President Joe Biden's COVID rules must become fully vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. (Shutterstock photo)

Nov. 5: Facing COVID vaccine mandates, these Michigan residents just said no

At least 84 million U.S. workers employed at the nation’s largest employers — including 2 million Michigan workers — now know they must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or face weekly testing by Jan. 4.

A senior White House official on Thursday rolled out the details on the controversial mandatory vaccination policy for workplaces with 100 or more workers announced in early September by President Joe Biden.

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The mandate — which will be administered by the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration — joins the mandatory vaccination rules for other workplaces, including employers with federal contracts and health care systems that participate in Medicare or Medicaid.

All deadlines across workplaces now are aligned, following Thursday’s announcement: The final doses (for approved one- or two-dose COVID vaccines) must be received by Jan. 4, 2022, instead of some groups that faced Dec. 8 deadlines.

Combined, the rules mean “that over two thirds of all workers in the United States are now covered by vaccination policies,” according to the White House.

According to the statement from the White House, the rules for the mandate are:

  • Employees must be vaccinated by Jan. 4 and unvaccinated employees must produce a negative test on a weekly basis:  All covered employers must ensure that their employees have received the necessary shots to be fully vaccinated – either two doses of Pfizer or Moderna, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson – by January 4th. After that, all covered employers must ensure that any employees who have not received the necessary shots begin producing a verified negative test to their employer on at least a weekly basis, and they must remove from the workplace any employee who receives a positive COVID-19 test or is diagnosed with COVID-19 by a licensed health care provider. Employers are not required to provide or pay for tests under the Biden rule, but they may be required to pay for testing because of other laws or collective bargaining agreements.
  • Employers must pay employees for the time it takes to get vaccinated: All covered employers are required to provide paid-time for their employees to get vaccinated and, if needed, sick leave to recover from side effects experienced that keep them from working.
  • All unvaccinated must wear masks: All covered employers must ensure that unvaccinated employees wear a face mask while in the workplace.
  • Employers must follow compliance rules: Employers are subject to requirements for reporting and record keeping that are spelled out in the detailed OSHA materials available here. While the testing requirement for unvaccinated workers will begin after Jan. 4, employers must be in compliance with all other requirements – such as providing paid-time for employees to get vaccinated and masking for unvaccinated workers – on Dec. 5. 

“The Administration is calling on all employers to step up and make these changes as quickly as possible,” according to the White House statement.

National business groups had met with the White House officials at the Office of Management and Budget over the last two weeks of October, according to national reports, asking that the rule be delayed until after the holiday season. 

The issue, they said, was fears that employees would leave even as they head into a busy season already marred by supply chain bottlenecks and the ongoing decline in labor force participation.

In Michigan, about 216,000 fewer people were working in September than in the same month of 2019, before the pandemic, according to data from the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Business reaction has not been uniform: Some called the mandate “critical” to defeating the pandemic, while surveys show support.

However, many of the state’s employers have the same concerns as national groups about a workplace exodus from employees who oppose the vaccination and cannot qualify for limited exemptions.

A coalition of Michigan business leaders, led by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, on Oct. 18 also asked the Biden administration to reconsider a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for large businesses that was announced in early September.

“Listen to us before forcing a federal mandate on our members,” said Nikki Devitt, president of the Petoskey Area Chamber of Commerce, during a press briefing. “We not only want our communities safe from COVID, we want our businesses to get every opportunity they can for a full economic recovery.”

They’d also asked that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ensure that the state’s enforcement of the federal regulations not exceed the OSHA standards, something that the state officials said a day later would not happen.

State officials said that won’t happen.

“Our office has been awaiting final direction from the federal government on the president’s plan to keep working people safe,” Sean Egan, chief deputy director for labor with the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, told Bridge Michigan in a statement. 

He continued: “Since Michigan has adopted a unique state plan like 22 other states, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration is required to implement a standard at least as stringent as the OSHA standard, but the state has no plans to go further than the federal requirements.”

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