US to Require Most Firms to Mandate Vaccination Against COVID-19

The Department of Labor rules will affect employers with 100 or more workers.

This story has been updated.

President Joe Biden announced Thursday his administration, through forthcoming Department of Labor rules, will require all employers with 100 or more workers to mandate vaccinations against COVID-19 or have workers undergo weekly testing.

"Many of us are frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated," Biden said at the White House. The president also criticized unnamed elected officials "actively working to undermine the fight against COVID-19."

Reuters reported the requirement could affect two-thirds of the American workforce. Businesses that don’t comply with an emergency temporary standard could face fines of up to $14,000 per violation, according to the report. Companies would have to give workers paid time off to get vaccinated or to recover from any side effects of getting vaccinated.

Biden said his plan, coming as the Delta variant continues to spread largely through unvaccinated communities in the United States, is aimed at protecting the economy as well as making it safer for schoolchildren, including those too young to get vaccinated, to return to in-person instruction.

In announcing the rules aimed at employers, Biden applauded companies that have already begun to mandate vaccinations, including, he said, "United Airlines, Disney, Tyson's Food, and even Fox News. Bottom line, we're going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated coworkers."

In addition, the new vaccination push will include requirements for the 17 million health care workers in facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding.

Federal contractors will have to abide by the same requirements, as will 300,000 teachers and staff in the federal Head Start early childhood education program.

He also announced efforts to improve access to testing through rapid at-home kits that he said will be sold at cost through major retailers.

Biden also referred to the chaos in the skies where some travelers have been pulling off their face masks while flying and fighting with airline personnel and other passengers, authorizing the Transportation Security Administration to double the fines on unmasked travelers on planes, busses, and trains.

In addition, the Defense Department will double the number of military health teams that are working with health care systems that are buckling under the strain of the pandemic.

Earlier this week, for example, Idaho, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, quietly announced it would have to begin care rationing in the state as it runs out of hospital beds and staff.

The United States will also increase shipments of monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID-19 across the country.

Anthony Fauci, MD, Biden's medical advisor and head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that with the United States dealing with more than 160,000 COVID-19 infections a day, the pandemic will persist until the country gets below 10,000 cases a day.