Last Thursday, the White House released a new COVID-19 Action Plan. This plan includes an executive order instructing OSHA to develop a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work. There are additional vaccine mandate orders that impact all federal contractors and any employer that receives reimbursements from Medicare or Medicaid.

Here is what we’ve learned so far about the vaccine mandate for employers:

  • This requirement is expected to impact 110,000 private sector employers and 80 million employees nationwide.
  • OSHA will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to implement this executive order.
  • The ETS is expected to be issued in 3-4 weeks. It will be effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register.
  • South Carolina is one of 22 states with an OSHA-approved state plan. This means SC employers should not be immediately subject to the new federal OSHA vaccine mandate. SC would have 30 days to adopt a rule in compliance with federal OSHA
  • Legal challenges to the vaccine mandate have already been promised, including from Governor McMaster.

Some of the biggest unanswered questions about this proposed new mandate:

  • Does the order cover independent contractors?
  • Are there any acceptable alternatives such as working from home?
  • How will exemptions for religious or health reasons be handled?
  • Is there adequate testing capacity to accommodate weekly testing requirement for unvaccinated? And who would pay for required testing?

The Beaufort Regional Chamber is working with partners at the state and federal levels to monitor all changes on this issue. We will update you as we learn more. We also welcome your input on how this order would impact your business.