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Stepping up federal efforts battling the COVID-19 pandemic, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is now requiring private sector employers, including private colleges and universities, with 100 or more workers to mandate vaccines or mandatory weekly testing of employees returning to the workplace. The new temporary rule, announced September 9 by President Joe Biden, requires those employers to provide paid time off to employees so that they can get vaccinated and recover from any vaccination symptoms.

Additionally, the rule requires healthcare workers in Medicare- and Medicaid-participating healthcare settings to be vaccinated, with no allowance for a testing option. 

As part of the administration’s new COVID-19 mitigation plan, Biden also signed two executive orders requiring all federal executive branch workers and federal contractors to be vaccinated. Strengthening a previous policy, the new requirement for unvaccinated individuals in this category does not allow for a testing option, “with exceptions only as required by law.” Many higher education institutions, both public and private, may be federal contractors.

It is unclear how these requirements will apply to public colleges and universities otherwise. The plan strongly urges large entertainment and sports arenas—which many public universities have–to require vaccinations for entry.

All states are required to mandate vaccinations for elementary and secondary school employees, teeing up potential court battles in states that currently prohibit mask mandates. 

The new OSHA rules are expected to be published in the Federal Register shortly.


Mary Bachinger

Director, Tax Policy


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