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Delaying Vaccine Mandate Would Be 'Big Mistake'

Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

Delaying the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate deadline until after the holidays would be a “big mistake,” Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said on Sunday.

Some businesses, including retailers and shipping companies, have pushed back against the upcoming deadline due to potential labor shortages during one of the busiest times of the year.

“I think that would be a big mistake,” Raimondo said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”

“People want to work in a workplace where they feel safe,” she said. “The best thing we can do to get people back to work is to make sure everybody is vaccinated.”

In September, the Biden administration announced that federal workers and contractors must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8.

The administration also said the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration would require vaccinations or weekly testing for companies with more than 100 employees. The details for the private sector are expected this week, according to CNN.

The Office of Management and Budget completed its required review on Monday, and the Federal Register will publish the details “in coming days,” a spokesman with the Labor Department told CNN.

“Covered employers must develop, implement, and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, unless they adopt a policy requiring employees to choose either to get vaccinated or to undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at work,” the spokesman said. “The [rule] also requires employers to provide paid time to workers to get vaccinated and paid sick leave to recover from any side effects.”

While awaiting updates, more than 40 companies and associations have requested meetings with the OMB to ask for exemptions or delays until after the holidays, according to The Washington Post .

The list of groups that have held or requested meetings include a wide range of industries, the newspaper reported, such as the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association, the Corn Refiners Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, and Walt Disney.

The groups have cited concerns about the vaccine requirement worsening current supply chain issues and labor shortages. Over the weekend, for instance, American Airlines announced that it canceled more than 1,400 flights due to staff shortages and unfavorable weather, according to Reuters.

The company said it is increasing staff across all operations, with nearly 1,800 flight attendants returning from leave to work during the busy holiday travel season and more than 600 newly hired flight attendants joining by the end of December, Reuters reported.

Last week, 19 states filed four lawsuits to stop the vaccine mandate for federal contractors, arguing that the requirement violates federal law, according to The Associated Press.

Attorneys general from Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming signed onto one lawsuit filed in a federal district court in Missouri. Governors from Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia signed onto another lawsuit filed in a federal district court in Georgia. In other lawsuits, Florida and Texas sued individually.

The states have asked federal judges to block the vaccine mandate because they say it violates federal procurement law and is an overreach of federal power, the AP reported. The states also argue that a large number of federal contract workers will quit over the mandate.

All but two of the states that have sued fall below the national average for vaccination rates, the AP reported. Only Florida and New Hampshire exceed the nationwide rate.

In recent days, governors have acted against COVID-19 mandates in other ways as well. For instance, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill on Friday that grants unemployment benefits to those who lose their jobs because they refuse to get vaccinated, according to CNN.

City leaders have also spoken up about issues with vaccine mandates. More than 26,000 workers, or 26% of municipal employees, in New York City remained unvaccinated after a Friday deadline, according to The Hill.

Vaccination rates increased among city employees as the deadline approached, the news outlet reported. On Thursday, 76% of police officers, firefighters and garbage collectors were vaccinated. On Friday, that increased to 83%. As of Monday, about 91% of city employees have been vaccinated.

But that means the city is preparing for a loss of workers, the news outlet reported, with the fire department ready for 20% fewer fire companies and 20% fewer ambulances.

During the past week, more than 2,000 New York City firefighters have taken medical leave as unvaccinated municipal workers face sanctions starting this week, according to NBC News.

Some first responders across the U.S. have been resistant to vaccine mandates, NBC News reported, with some saying they would rather lose their jobs than lose their sense of freedom over choosing to receive a shot.

In Los Angeles, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the county’s vaccinate mandate could cause a “mass exodus” among personnel, according to the Los Angeles Times .

As of Friday, more than 90% of the county’s employees had registered their vaccination status, the newspaper reported, including 79% of workers in the sheriff’s department. More than half of the department’s 16,000 employees are fully vaccinated, about 2,300 are unvaccinated, and 1,800 are seeking exemptions.

“I have repeatedly stated the dangers to public safety when 20% to 30% of my workforce is no longer available to provide service, and those dangers are quickly becoming a reality,” he said. “We are experiencing an increase in unscheduled retirements, worker compensation claims, employees quitting, and a reduction in qualified applicants.”


CBS News: “Transcript: Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on ‘Face the Nation,’ October 31, 2021.”

CNN: “Emergency vaccine rule for large employers will be issued ‘in the coming days.'”

The Washington Post: “As White House tries to finalize vaccine mandate, dozens of groups seek last-minute meetings.”

Reuters: “American Airlines cancels 1,400 flights due to staff shortages, bad weather.”

The Associated Press: “19 states sue Biden administration over COVID vaccine rule.”

CNN: “Iowa governor signs law granting unemployment benefits to those fired for not being vaccinated.”

The Hill: “26K NYC workers remain unvaccinated after Friday deadline.”

NBC News: “2,000 FDNY firefighters take medical leave as vaccine sanctions loom.”

Los Angeles Times: “Sheriff warns vaccine mandate causing ‘mass exodus’ among personnel.”

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