Today the Biden administration released details of its plan to require full vaccination or weekly COVID-19 testing for two thirds of the nation's work force by Jan 4. The announcement comes as the country exceeds 750,000 COVID deaths.
The plan will affect all employers with 100 or more employees, or 84 million Americans. The program will be overseen by the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) at the Department of Health and Human Services will also require that all healthcare workers at facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid are fully vaccinated, a rule that affects 17 million workers at approximately 76,000 healthcare facilities, including hospitals and long-term care facilities.
"The Administration has previously implemented policies requiring millions of federal employees and federal contractors to be fully vaccinated. To make it easy for businesses and workers to comply, the Administration is announcing today that the deadline for workers to receive their shots will be the same for the OSHA rule, the CMS rule, and the previously-announced federal contractor vaccination requirement," the administration said in a press release.
President Joe Biden announced the plan to introduce mandates in September, after a nationwide vaccination campaign stalled in the summer, and cases rose sharply with the arrival of the Delta (B1617.2) variant.
"What more do you need to see?" Biden asked unvaccinated Americans during an address on Sep 9. "The vaccine is FDA-approved, over 200 million Americans have gotten the shot. We have been patient, but our patience is wearing thin."
Ford Motor announces mandates
In related news, Ford Motor Company became the first US automaker to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for its 32,000 salaried employees, CNN reports. Workers have until Dec 8 to be fully vaccinated; the company said 84% of US salaried employees are already vaccinated.
And the US military said yesterday that almost 97% of active duty members of the Air Force have received at least one dose of vaccine, the New York Times reports. The Air Force is the first branch of the military to reach a vaccine deadline set by the Pentagon in August.
The vaccination deadline for the Navy and Marines is later in November, and the Army deadline is mid-December.
COVID-19 US death toll rises
The United States reached another grim milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 750,000 Americans now officially dead from the virus. According to Johns Hopkins University, 46,300,738 Americans have had confirmed COVID-19 infections, and 751,046 have died.
The 7-day average of new daily cases is 71,619, with 1,257 daily deaths, according to the New York Times tracker. Yesterday the newspaper recorded 84,800 new cases, including 1,880 deaths.
Colorado has emerged as the latest hot spot for virus activity. The state's daily case rate has more than doubled in the past month, and nearly 200 COVID-19 patients are being admitted to hospitals each day, ABC News reports.