Following President Joe Biden's September 9 COVID vaccine mandate announcement and its rather messy rollout that sparked protests and lawsuits across the country, his Democratic administration is now looking to expand the said mandate to cover even more American businesses. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy hinted on Sunday that "nothing is off the table" just yet when it comes to mandating the COVID vaccines to the rest of the U.S. population.
Dr. Murthy told ABC's "This Week" that while President Biden's COVID vaccine mandates for companies with over 100 employees is "appropriate and necessary," it might not just be enough to end the pandemic in the U.S. The U.S. Surgeon General suggested it may be widened if it survives the numerous lawsuits that have been filed against it throughout the different states, the New York Post reported.
"Certainly nothing is off the table at this moment," Dr. Murthy remarked. "The focus right now is implementing the current rule that OSHA put out."
An emergency temporary standard (ETS) was issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on Thursday last week. The ETS "establishes binding requirements to protect unvaccinated employees of large employers (100 or more employees from the risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace."
According to CNBC, the federal COVID vaccine mandates will affect all private-sector organizations with at least 100 employees, including full time and part time workers, affecting about 84 million workers or two-thirds of the nation's private-sector workforce.
The requirement orders unvaccinated workers to wear a mask while indoors or riding in a vehicle with coworkers beginning December 5. The order also requires workers to receive the final dose of the vaccine by January 4. Those who refuse will be required to present a negative COVID test to their employee every week to continue reporting to work in person. Companies that fail to comply with the ETS will be fined up to $14,000 per infraction.
However, the OSHA's ETA that implements President Biden's COVID vaccine mandates has been blocked by a federal appeals panel on Saturday. According to WebMD, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel of three judges decided on an emergency lawsuit brought forth by state attorneys general who opposed President Biden's COVID vaccine mandates. The federal judges issued a four-paragraph order in which they ordered a temporary stay because they found "cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the Mandate."
On Monday, the Biden administration responded to the federal court's stay, claiming that blocking their COVID vaccine mandates "would likely cost dozens or even hundreds of lives per day," Politico reported. It also argued that the OSHA was "well within its authority" to issue the ETS requiring businesses to comply with the vaccine requirement or face weekly COVID testing.
When asked whether President Biden's COVID vaccine mandates could negatively impact businesses that are already burdened with the national labor shortage, Dr. Murthy said that based on what he hears "from small businesses, large businesses and workers...that what's really hurting the economy is actually COVID itself."
The U.S. Surgeon General concluded that COVID has reminded people of how their "decisions have a broader effect on people," which is "why having these types of requirements in work places will be not only helpful, it's a necessary step to accelerate our pathway out of the pandemic."