In January 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) withdrew the COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) issued to protect unvaccinated employees of large employers with 100 or more workers from workplace exposure to COVID-19, according to a statement from OSHA. The withdrawal took effect on January 26, 2022.
Although OSHA withdrew the Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard as an enforceable ETS, the agency is not withdrawing the ETS as a proposed rule but rather prioritizing its resources to focus on finalizing a permanent COVID-19 Healthcare Standard. OSHA strongly encourages the vaccination of workers against the continuing dangers posed by COVID-19 in the workplace.
On January 13, 2022, in a decision that prompted the withdrawal, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a ruling in the case of National Federation of Independent Business v. Department of Labor that blocked the vaccine and testing mandate issued by the OSHA that required employers with 100 or more employees to mandate COVID-19 vaccination or weekly testing for COVID-19 in their workforces.
“Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly. Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls in the latter category,” the Supreme Court explained in the majority opinion.
In September 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden had announced an emergency rule requiring all employers with at least 100 employees “to ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated or show a negative test at least once a week.” In November 2021, OSHA published the rule in the Federal Register. After litigation involving the rule, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments “on an emergency basis” in January 2022.
COVID-19 is a potentially deadly respiratory illness that spreads from person to person. As of January 27, 2022, there are approximately 363 million global cases and 5.6 million global deaths, while the United States leads the world with approximately 72 million cases and 876,000 deaths, according to the COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
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