Unvaccinated People Will Be Barred From This, Starting Feb. 28
This vaccine mandate will go into effect in several states soon.
The Omicron variant has spread so quickly across the U.S. that it is now estimated to account for more than 99.5 percent of cases in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As a result of the previously dominant Delta variant, officials and businesses across the U.S. chose to enact vaccine mandates to try to improve vaccination rates and bring down the spike. But with only 63 percent of people in the country fully vaccinated and Omicron causing cases to surge to record numbers, more vaccine mandates are being implemented—and deadlines for enforcement are rapidly approaching.
A vaccine mandate from the White House will require that health care workers in 25 states and Washington, D.C., be vaccinated. On Jan. 13, the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its vaccine mandate on large private companies but allowed the mandate for some health care workers to stand, CNBC reported. Under the court's ruling, employees at medical facilities that take Medicare or Medicaid payments can still be required to get vaccinated, which will affect an estimated 20 million health care workers, per NBC News.
According to CNN, workers in the following states are now required to be fully vaccinated by Feb. 28 through the directive from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS): California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
The health care workers in these 25 states were required to have their first or primary shots completed by Jan. 27. Workers in more states are not off the hook, but the mandate has been challenged by several states in multiple lawsuits over the last few months, which caused the requirements to be put on hold for the remaining 25 states.
"As a result, the CMS vaccine mandate was in effect in some states but not others," Norma Zeitler, an attorney with Barnes & Thornburg explained to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). "The Supreme Court lifted the stays of enforcement, paving the way for the CMS to enforce its vaccine mandate nationwide."
Now, the mandate will be rolled out in phases, with the first 25 states falling under the Feb. 28 deadline because they did not challenge the requirement in court. Health care workers in the following 24 states have until March 15 to be fully vaccinated: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Workers in these states must also receive their first or primary shots by Feb. 14, according to the CMS. Texas, on the other hand, will operate on its own timeline. Officials in this state challenged the CMS mandate on their own in a separate lawsuit that was just dismissed by a federal district court on Jan. 19, according to the SHRM. The CMS is giving affected health care workers in Texas until Feb. 22 to receive their first or primary COVID vaccine shot, and until March 21 to be fully vaccinated.
Sal Rosselli, president of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents about 15,000 people in California, told the Associated Press that the federal vaccine mandate is "better late than never" after the Supreme Court chose to uphold the requirement nationwide. "But if it happened sooner, we wouldn't have gone through the surge, and a lot more people would be alive today," he added.