Majority of US workers to fall under vaccine mandate on Jan. 4

Nearly 100 million U.S. workers will be required to get the COVID vaccine by Jan. 4, with some workers allowed to test weekly instead, under sweeping federal rules released Thursday by the Biden administration that identifies COVID-19 as an occupational hazard.

The regulations are aimed at health care workers and businesses with 100 or more employees, covering two-thirds of the nation’s workforce. Businesses that don’t comply could be fined $14,000 per infraction, and hospitals could lose access to Medicare and Medicaid dollars.

It’s part of President Joe Biden’s aggressive new plan to try quell a pandemic that’s overshadowed his presidency and hobbled the economy. At the same time, the Jan. 4 date is a nod to industry groups that insisted the administration wait until after the holidays to impose mandates in the midst of a worker shortage.

“This is good for the economy,” a senior administration official told reporters late Wednesday on the rationale for the plan.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images, FILE – PHOTO: President Joe Biden delivers remarks on plans to stop the spread of the Delta variant and boost COVID-19 vaccinations at the State Dinning Room of the White House, in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 9, 2021.

Since taking office, the Biden administration had avoided imposing nationwide vaccine mandates, focusing instead on incentives for businesses and individuals. But with the arrival of the delta variant, a surge in pediatric cases and pockets of the country remaining hesitant to get a shot, Biden’s COVID strategy shifted in recent weeks.

“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us,” Biden said of unvaccinated Americans on Sept. 9 when announcing his plan to draft the rule.

MORE: Biden touts vaccine mandates for large businesses: ‘These requirements work’

Biden’s plan also gives federal contractors an extra month to comply, sliding a previous Dec. 8 deadline set by the administration. Federal workers are still required to be vaccinated by Nov. 22.

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