Last Thursday, Sept. 9, President Biden announced new vaccine mandates for the United States. They'll require roughly 100 million Americans to get vaccinated against Covid-19, including federal workers, health care workers and some private-sector employees.
Under this plan, private sector businesses that have 100 or more employees will have to require vaccination or mandatory weekly testing, a rule drafted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Seventeen million health care workers employed by hospitals and other institutions that accept Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement will also face new vaccination requirements.
Some exemptions will apply, including for religious and disability reasons. Federal workers will also receive a 75-day grace period for receiving the vaccine.
According to the New York Times, OSHA has the authority to "quickly issue a rule, known as an emergency temporary standard, if it can show that workers are exposed to a grave danger and that the rule is necessary to address that danger. The rule must also be feasible for employers to enforce."
The emergency temporary standard would take over existing rules by state governments, except in states that already have their own OSHA-approved workplace agencies, which is about half of the states in the country.
What does this mean for Sarasota's healthcare workers?
Sarasota Memorial Hospital's CEO David Verinder put out a statement to hospital staff on Friday, Sept. 10, about the update.
"At this point in time, we don't have all of the details on exactly how and when the new requirements will be rolled out to health care providers," Verinder said. "Once the government's plans are finalized and we have the opportunity to thoroughly review the new rules, we will develop our own policies accordingly."
To date, about three-quarters of the hospital's 7,000-plus employees and 90 percent of the 1,000-plus medical staff have been vaccinated, Verinder says.
While vaccines are not yet required, employees of the hospital can be financially compensated if fully vaccinated by October 1, 2021. Employees will receive a $500 special appreciation payment on October 21, and will be eligible to receive a year-end award in 2022.
What does this mean for other Sarasota workers?
"As of now, there are no updates yet about what Biden's mandates will mean for us," says Sarasota County Department of Health's public information officer Steve Huard. "Until we receive orders from the [state] health department in Tallahassee, we'll just stand fast and wait for orders from above. It's too soon locally; it's up to the state office."
Huard is hoping to hear some news about vaccine requirements soon about how local testing and vaccination sites can make the president's plans operational.