- The Washington Times - Monday, November 1, 2021

A Biden administration regulation that requires large companies to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine or regular testing for the virus will be put forth in the coming days, the Labor Department said Monday.

The department said the White House Office of Management and Budget finished its review of the emergency temporary standard written by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a key last step before the regulation takes effect.

“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been working expeditiously to develop an emergency temporary standard that covers employers with 100 or more employees, firm- or companywide, and provides options for compliance,” the department said. “Covered employers must develop, implement and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy unless they adopt a policy requiring employees to choose either to get vaccinated or to undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at work.”

The Labor Department said its regulation will require employers to provide paid time off for workers to get vaccinated and paid sick leave to recover from any side effects.

Mr. Biden announced the regulation Sept. 9 as part of a broader plan to combat the delta variant of the coronavirus and mandate the vaccine for federal workers and contractors.

The rules are sure to spark legal challenges. Litigation will likely challenge OSHA‘s authority to mandate things like vaccines or testing or take issue with the procedures used to craft and publish the emergency standard.

Some GOP-run states are pushing back against Mr. Biden‘s rules.

Iowa, for instance, passed a bill that approves unemployment benefits for people nudged out of their jobs by federal vaccine rules and requires employers to offer medical and religious exemptions to the mandates.

Businesses such as Delta Air Lines said they were able to lift vaccination rates to 90% or higher without the use of mandates, while business lobbies have sought clarity on how the rules should be enforced or if there will be enough tests to go around when the mandate kicks in.

New York City is heading in the opposite direction. It started Monday to enforce its vaccine mandate on its nearly 400,000 city workers, raising fears of disruptions as about 9,000 workers were placed on unpaid leave.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, said shift changes and other contingency plans were working.

“We’re not seeing disruptions to any city services,” he said.

Mr. de Blasio said 91% of the city workforce has come forward for the vaccine, with the police, fire and sanitation departments each seeing their rates jump by double digits since the mandate was announced in mid-October.

He said departments are working through 12,000 requests for religious or medical exemptions and those individuals can stay on the job with regular testing until their applications are vetted.

The crackdown comes as Mr. Biden and liberal cities try to lift vaccination rates. About 58% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated.

Even as it pushes mandates, the administration on Monday boasted that 8 in 10 U.S. adults have received at least one dose and 7 in 10 adults are fully vaccinated.

The administration plans to dispatch millions of doses of smaller-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to the states once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signs off on plans to offer the shots to 5- to 11-year-olds.

“As we await the CDC decision, we are not waiting on the operations and logistics,” said White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients.

Mr. Zients said the first allotment of shipments will include 15 million doses of a two-shot vaccine, though he said the U.S. secured enough supply for all 28 million kids in the age range.

Simultaneously, the administration is promoting booster shots from all three approved COVID-19 vaccines for eligible Americans.

Mr. Zients said nearly 20 million Americans have received a booster dose, mainly from Pfizer, which was approved for boosters weeks ahead of the Moderna version and Johnson & Johnson shot.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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