What Employers Need to Know About President Biden’s Path Out of the Pandemic COVID-19 Action Plan
The COVID-19 guidelines in this article are reflective of the time of publishing. To stay up to date with the latest CDC guidelines visit the official COVID-19 site.
On September 9th, 2021, the Biden administration announced their new COVID-19 Action Plan, made up of a six-pronged approach to combat COVID-19. Several of the new guidelines outlined in the plan put much of the onus on employers to get America’s workforce vaccinated. The six prongs of the new COVID-19 Action Plan are:
- Vaccinating the unvaccinated
- Further protecting the vaccinated
- Keeping schools safely open
- Increasing testing and requiring masking
- Protecting our economic recovery
- Improving care for those with COVID-19
Keep reading for our breakdown of common questions employers may have and the top new requirements employers need to know.
What are the requirements in the COVID-19 action plan that employers need to be aware of?
- All employers with 100+ employees are required to ensure their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly. Employers are also required to provide employees with paid time off to get vaccinated.
- These requirements will be implemented via the Department of Labor OSHA yet-to-be issued Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) and will impact over 80M workers in the private sector.
- All federal workers and covered contractors that do business with the federal government are required to be vaccinated.
- This requirement comes from an Executive Order signed by President Biden.
- All workers at Medicare or Medicaid participating providers are required to be vaccinated.
- This will be implemented by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and will affect over 17M healthcare workers.
It’s important to note that at the time of publishing, details and deadlines for implementing these new requirements have not been announced and all vaccination requirements are subject to ADA accommodation analysis for medical and religious exemptions.
What can employers do to mitigate the risk of COVID infection in the workplace?
- Encourage all eligible employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible.
- Require the use of face coverings in situations where social distancing is difficult to maintain. See the CDC resource for more information on mask wearing.
- The CDC recommends that employers coordinate with their local and state health officials to ensure they have the most timely and accurate information to guide prompt identification and isolation of potentially infectious individuals in the workplace.
- Promote frequent and thorough hand washing or use of alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol.
- Encourage workers to stay home if they’re feeling sick.
- Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
- Practice social distancing by maintaining approximately six feet from others.
- Consider video or teleconferencing to minimize face-to-face interactions.
- Perform routine environmental cleaning and disinfection.
- Increase airflow to occupied spaces when possible, consider modifications to HVAC system and/or use of portable air filtration units.
- Decrease occupancy in conference rooms or areas where it is difficult to social distance.
How can employers securely keep track of vaccine validation and employee testing requirements?
Organizations need the help of an experienced healthcare provider to navigate the new vaccination and testing requirements for their workforce. Aggregate reporting capabilities through an employee health record platform that can facilitate vaccine validation as well as testing requirements for non-vaccinated employees are essential for return-to-campus protocols and ensuring your organization is meeting the new requirements laid out in the action plan. At Premise, we can provide secure and comprehensive reporting on employee testing and vaccine validation to give organizations the information they need to make decisions.
What is the most effective strategy for managing testing requirements for unvaccinated employees?
Some organizations may find it is easier to manage testing in person, while other organizations may select rapid testing kits to be shipped to the employee’s homes. As supply chain issues for testing kits present themselves, the most effective strategy will vary from organization to organization. To understand the evolving landscape, organizations need a trusted healthcare provider like Premise Health to navigate them to the right solution.
Which employees are mandated to have the COVID-19 vaccine without an option for weekly testing?
This depends on the industry and additional state requirements. Federal employees, covered contractors that work with the government, and all workers at Medicare and Medicaid participating providers (including clinical staff, individuals providing services under arrangements, volunteers, and staff who are not involved in direct patient, resident, or client care) are required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine with no option for weekly testing. Individual employers may also decide to mandate vaccination due to organization size, scale, or the potential cost burden of facilitating regular testing.
How can employers encourage COVID-19 vaccination among their workforce?
An entirely vaccinated employee population eliminates the need for weekly testing, which can be time and cost intensive. Premise can assist employers with encouraging vaccination by hosting vaccine events to facilitate convenient and seamless access. Additionally, in the new requirements all employers are now required to provide paid time off to get vaccinated, so no employees should have to choose between getting paid and getting vaccinated.
Finally, employers who have mandated vaccines or added penalties for unvaccinated employees have had success improving their vaccination rates. For example, after mandating the vaccine United Airlines has had more than 99% of employees get vaccinated, a historic feat.
How can employers support employees who test positive for COVID-19?
A positive COVID-19 diagnosis can be a scary and isolating time for members. Employers can support their workforce through virtual telehealth services that provide regular care support check ins with quarantined individuals. Virtual providers can monitor symptoms, coordinate care, and confirm that employees are safe to return to work once recovered.
Like with any workplace injury or illness, it is also important to respect employee health privacy when clearing employees to return to work. A reliable healthcare partner can serve as the intentional middleman to confirm employees are cleared to safely re-enter the workplace. At Premise, our return-to-work process aligns with both evidence-based recommendations and our own experience supporting the nation’s top companies from the start of the pandemic.
The new guidelines laid out by the White House action plan put the responsibility onto employers to help bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this, employers cannot wait to implement an action plan. As your trusted healthcare partner, we’re here to help.
Premise has been helping employers navigate requirements and operate their businesses safely since the beginning of the pandemic, so there is no better partner to help ensure you’re compliant with the latest federal COVID-19 guidelines. With virtual and in-person support, Premise can provide a tailored pandemic readiness solution for your organization’s evolving needs. Get in touch with us to discuss how your organization can be prepared for the White House’s COVID-19 Action Plan.