Leading health groups urge businesses to voluntarily adopt Biden vaccine-or-test rules

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Dozens of health groups including the American Medical Association are calling on businesses to voluntarily implement President Biden’s coronavirus vaccine-or-test rules quickly in order to keep workers and customers safe ahead of the holidays.

“We — physicians, nurses and advanced practice clinicians, health experts, and health care professional societies — fully support the requirement that workers at companies with over 100 workers be vaccinated or tested. This requirement by the Occupational, Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is reasonable and essential to protect workers,” the groups wrote in a joint statement.

OSHA issued the rule requiring businesses with at least 100 employees to institute a requirement that workers either be vaccinated against the coronavirus or tested weekly earlier this month. Unvaccinated employees would need to wear masks indoors starting Dec. 5, and then undergo weekly testing if they remain unvaccinated by Jan. 4.

The rule sparked immediate legal challenges from GOP governors and senators, employers and religious groups, who said the administration exceeded its authority. A federal appeal court last week upheld its own stay of the rule, and OSHA has suspended enforcement pending another hearing.

In addition, all 50 Republican senators are challenging the rule under the Congressional Review Act, and will force a vote to overturn it in the coming weeks.

All the various legal challenges have now been consolidated into a single lawsuit in a new court, and the administration is soon expected to ask the court to lift the temporary freeze. In court filings, the administration has argued that each day the mandate is blocked “would likely cost dozens or even hundreds of lives.” 

The joint statement was organized by Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania. Emanuel told The Hill health workers have long known that mandates would be needed, because there weren’t enough adults willing to be vaccinated.

“Every year you get about 45 percent of adults vaccinated [for the flu], and that’s just not going to cut it if we are going to get our arms around COVID,” he said.

“We’re at wit’s end, but also at capacity in many states. We have to have this vaccine mandate for employers,” Emanuel said. “It’s not without its controversies, but it’s the right thing to do. 

The statement noted that many thousands of people who have died from COVID-19 contracted it on the job, including in food service, health care, retail or as first responders. 

“Requiring masks for all unvaccinated workers by the December 5th deadline will be key to keeping customers and fellow workers safe during the holiday shopping and travel season,” wrote the groups, which also included the American College of Physicians, the National Hispanic Medical Association, the National League for Nursing, the National Medical Association and the American Public Health Association.  

“From the first day of this pandemic, businesses have wanted to vanquish this virus. Now is their chance to step up and show they are serious. Implementing these commonsense OSHA standards is an important step for our workers, businesses, and the nation as a whole,” they said.

Updated at 11:37 a.m.

Tags Coronavirus COVID testing Joe Biden OSHA vaccine mandate
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