President Joe Biden on Thursday announced that the U.S. Labor Department has made his COVID-19 vaccination mandate for companies with more than 100 employees official.
In a statement, Biden said 70% of adult Americans are now fully vaccinated, but even so more vaccinations are necessary before the country can fully return to normal.
"Vaccination is the single best pathway out of this pandemic. And while I would have much preferred that requirements not become necessary, too many people remain unvaccinated for us to get out of this pandemic for good," Biden said.
"Vaccination requirements are good for the economy," he added. "They not only increase vaccination rates but they help send people back to work — as many as 5 million American workers. They make our economy more resilient in the face of COVID and keep our businesses open."
The White House released a fact-sheet with the details of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Emergency Temporary Standards for U.S. businesses.
As Biden announced in September, employers with 100 or more employees must ensure each of their workers are vaccinated or tested for COVID-19 weekly. Companies have until Jan. 4 to comply with the vaccine mandate or potentially face thousands of dollars in noncompliance fees. The White House said the government will not require employers to provide or pay for COVID-19 tests because COVID-19 vaccines are free for patients and widely available.
There are additional requirements in the ETS. All covered employers must pay for the time it takes their employees to get vaccinated, including sick leave if vaccine side effects keep them from working. All unvaccinated employees will be forced to wear masks while in the workplace, under the administration's new rules.
The Biden administration also issued new vaccination requirements for health care workers through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Any health care facility that participates in the Medicare or Medicaid program must require their employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. There is no testing opt-out for health care workers.
"Together, these rules will cover about 100 million Americans — two-thirds of all workers in America," Biden said.
The president claimed that his vaccination requirements have broad public support and that contrary to news reports, "there have been no 'mass firings' and worker shortages because of vaccination requirements."
He also said that vaccination requirements and safety rules in the workplace "are nothing new."
"I'm calling on employers to act. Businesses have more power than ever before to accelerate our path out of this pandemic, save lives, and protect our economic recovery," Biden said.