Friday, January 28, 2022

Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate has an alternative: weekly tests

WASHINGTON. This week, the Republican faction in Congress threatened to close down the government over what they call President Joe Biden’s “vaccination mandate”.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule does not require employers to take action against unvaccinated workers if they are willing to be tested weekly for COVID-19, but Republicans have ignored that part of the rule.

“When you are not willing to describe something precisely, it is a sign of your weakness,” Senator Tim Caine (Democrat from Virginia) said in a Senate courtroom Thursday night. “This is not a requirement for a vaccine. It’s a vaccine or testing mandate. ”

Indeed, the OSHA rule that bound in court and did not work, does not require vaccinations from people. This requires large employers to implement programs in which workers who works indoors either get vaccinated or wear a mask and get tested weekly for COVID-19. Employers, if they choose, can require their employees to take a hit. (as many employers already do)… But the OSHA rule gives every employer a free hand to check.

Kane is not the only proponent of the rule who is annoyed by the lack of nuance among Republicans. David Michaels, who ran OSHA under former President Barack Obama, said employers don’t need to force the vaccine on anyone – they just need to keep infected workers out of work.

“The distortion of OSHA rules is a cynical tactic of Republican politicians and vaccine opponents who seem to want to prolong the pandemic and the suffering it causes in order to harm the Biden administration,” Michaels said in an email.

Testing is option as a rule of thumb, but this is likely to be annoying – and it might be an idea. In his preamble According to the text of the rule, OSHA calls vaccination “the most effective and efficient means of control” to prevent transmission of the virus. The logistical and financial constraints of weekly testing make vaccination more attractive.

OSHA does not force employers to pay for testing, which raises questions about how the costs will be covered.

Federal law requires insurers to cover the costs of COVID-19 tests, but not tests done as part of an on-the-job inspection. On Thursday, the Biden administration announced that insurers will be required to reimburse the cost of over-the-counter tests. Such tests are acceptable under OSHA regulation if approved by the FDA, but it is unclear whether insurers will have to reimburse for OSHA compliance tests. Even if they are covered, you have to bargain with an insurance company would be a headache.

Another headache: home tests that are not supervised by a manager should be supervised by a “telemedicine observer”.

Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and professor of public health at George Washington University, said the Biden administration should clarify whether regular over-the-counter tests need to be reimbursed for the job. But she also said there is good public health reason for the weekly testing regimen to be somewhat lousy.

“V Overall, we need to make vaccination an easy and convenient choice, so having employees masked and tested is the right decision from a public health perspective, ”Wen said in an interview. “This adds an additional incentive to vaccinations.”

Republicans did not include test option in their mandate descriptions, but ignored it when asked.

Senator Roger Marshall (Roger Marshall), head of Senate Republicans opposing the mandate, said he believed firms with more than 100 employees – the threshold for meeting the requirement – could not conduct weekly inspections of their workforce.

“I’ve talked to hundreds of home business owners and they think it’s nearly impossible,” Marshall told HuffPost. “This is a huge inconvenience.”

Marshall added, “To be honest, some of these people don’t want to be tested either.”

Other Republicans have also rejected the test option. “The government’s role is simply to provide us with good information and allow us to make our own decisions,” said Senator Rick Scott (R-Florida).

“Testing is costly and cumbersome,” added Senator John F. Kennedy (Republic of Louisiana).

Some Republicans seemed to be unfamiliar with the testing alternative. “I never even heard of it,” said Senator James Inhof, Oklahoma, noting that “every waking minute” was spent on a bill to authorize national defense. Inhof was one of the Republicans who signed a letter that called the vaccine demand “immoral.”

“As far as I understand, a waiver is not necessary, but even so, I mean no one has to go through a daily, weekly, or whatever testing protocol,” said a spokesman for Chip Roy, Texas.

(Vaccination regulations for federal and military personnel do not have the same testing options.)

Republican state officials sued to stop the OSHA rule from effecting, and a federal court allowed temporary stay block it on the grounds that it raises “serious” constitutional issues. The case will go to a panel of judges in the Conservative US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, and then possibly to the Supreme Court. Even if the administration succeeds, the lawsuit could push the vaccine or testing deadline well beyond January 4th.

It is difficult to say how most employers will react to the control portion of the rule if it persists. Some may be happy to implement the vaccine requirement, as many large employers have already done, using the OSHA rule as a cover. Others may want to keep testing out to prevent vaccine-resistant people from leaving if they find testing workable.

Jordan Barab, an occupational safety expert and former OSHA employee, said he believed the testing option would be a viable option if the cost of the tests came down. From a public health perspective, Barab would have preferred the OSHA rule to have no testing hatch at all. But if there is a refusal, he argues that employers should bear the costs of testing so that most of them choose to refuse it.

“If OSHA ultimately wants employers to mandate vaccinations, they should make it inconvenient for employers,” Barab said.

CORRECTIONA previous version of this story misidentified the state that Senator Roger Marshall represents.

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