Editor’s Note: News and updates surrounding COVID-19 vaccination mandates continue to evolve rapidly. Check back for news on the Mployer Advisor blog as developments unfold. For state-specific guidance, please refer to OSHA’s site here.  

On January 13, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rule, which required the vaccination of all healthcare workers at CMS-covered facilities. The CMS mandate is expected to cover more than 10.4 million healthcare workers across 76,000 facilities nationwide. 

The CMS ruling came on the same day as the court ruled to block the Biden administration’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) vaccine mandate that targeted large employers. Previously, the OSHA mandate required that businesses with 100 or more employees implement a vaccination requirement for workers or require a weekly testing alternative. 

Because the CMS rule was paused during litigation, the federal government extended the COVID-19 vaccination deadline in 24 states. According to guidance from CMS, workers now have until February 14 to receive their first COVID-19 dose and must be completely vaccinated by March 15.  

These revised deadlines apply to the following states: 

  • 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 

  • Wyoming  

Texas officials challenged the CMS directive, which a federal district court dismissed on January 20. As such, Texas healthcare workers must now receive their first vaccine dose by February 22 and be fully vaccinated by March 21.  

Compliance timelines were not affected for healthcare providers in the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, or the remaining 25 states that did not challenge the mandate.  

Compliance Standards and Enforcement 

According to a recent post from the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), the CMS vaccination requirement applies to all healthcare workers at CMS-covered facilities, even if those employees do not have contact with patients or clinical responsibilities.  

What’s more, staff members who work remotely but still have some contact with other staff members–such as in-person staff meetings or at worksites–must also comply. Only staff who perform all their duties remotely are exempt from the vaccination mandate.  

According to guidance from CMS, “Facility staff vaccination rates under 100 percent constitute noncompliance under the rule.” However, CMS clarified noting that “Noncompliance does not necessarily lead to termination [from the programs], and facilities will generally be given opportunities to return to compliance.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a fully vaccinated person as an individual who has two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The CDC recommends that eligible individuals receive a booster shot in addition to their primary vaccine, however a booster is not required under the CMS rule.  

The CMS mandate also requires employers to track employees’ vaccination status, including creating a policy to record religious or medical exemptions and employee accommodations.  

Unsure of how to navigate the ongoing uncertainty caused by the evolving COVID-19 pandemic? Register now for Mployer Advisor’s upcoming webinar “COVID-19 Compliance in the Workplace: Strategies for Success in Uncertain Times.”  

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