Today, President Biden announced the nation’s COVID-19 Action Plan, which is a six-prong, comprehensive national strategy designed to save lives, keep schools open and safe, and protect the nation’s economy while avoiding additional lockdowns and damage. The six prongs are:
- Vaccinating the unvaccinated;
- Further protecting the vaccinated;
- Keeping schools safely open;
- Increasing testing & requiring masking;
- Protecting the nation’s economic recovery; and
- Improving care for those with COVID-19.
Most significantly for private and public employers, the Action Plan requires:
- All employers with 100+ employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly;
- All federal executive branch workers to be fully vaccinated (notably, this standard also is extended to employees of federal contractors); and
- Employers with 100+ employees to provide paid time off for workers to get vaccinated or to recover from side effects from COVID-19 vaccines.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to implement the requirements applicable to private employers. President Biden also issued an Executive Order regarding federal contractors and COVID-19 safety protocols.
At this point, we do not know whether the ETS will require employers to cover the costs of the mandated weekly tests for unvaccinated employees. However, the Action Plan provides that:
- Top retailers will offer at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests at-cost for the next three months; and
- The number of retail pharmacy sites that provide free testing will expand to 10,000 locations.
We continue to monitor the situation and will provide updates regarding the new ETS, its effective date, and the implementation of the new requirements under the Action Plan.