On September 9, the Biden administration announced a new COVID-19 Action Plan, titled “The Path Out of the Pandemic.” The plan takes a six-pronged approach to combat COVID-19, which includes advancing COVID-19 mitigation and response efforts through vaccination and masking, keeping schools safely open and bolstering our economic recovery. The six components of the new COVID-19 Action Plan include:
- Vaccinating the unvaccinated by reducing the number of unvaccinated Americans through regulatory powers and authorities that will increase the number of Americans covered by vaccination requirements, predominately in the workplace. The plan also aims to provide paid time off for workers to receive their vaccinations.
- Further protecting the vaccinated the administration of booster shots this fall to vaccinated Americans, pending authorization of the boosters by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC’s independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).
- Keeping schools safely open by implementing new safety protocol for schools that include indoor masking policies, improved ventilation and regular testing for students and staff. The plan also requires staff federally run educational facilities to be vaccinated and calls on states to adopt vaccine requirements for all school employees.
- Increasing testing & requiring masks by ramping up COVID-19 testing production, improving at-home testing affordability and expanding free testing at community health centers, food banks and pharmacies. The plan also will continue to require masking on federal property and on public transportation.
- Protecting our economic recovery by providing support to small businesses and individuals affected by the COVID-19 economic fallout through various improvements and expansions on Small Business Administration (SBA) programs such as the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, the Paycheck Protection Program forgiveness process, and the SBA Community Navigator Program.
- Improving care for those with COVID-19 by providing federal support to hospitals and other local public health systems strained by the surge in COVID-19 cases. The administration will continue to provide additional personnel, ventilators, testing kits and vaccinations to areas dealing with the Delta surge.
The announcement of this six-point strategy was accompanied by both administrative and regulatory actions aimed at increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates across the country. On September 9, President Biden signed two new Executive Orders that would require vaccinations for all federal workers and contractors. It was also announced that both the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) would each be releasing emergency rules that would respectively require both employers with 100 or more employees and workers in health care settings that receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement to implement vaccination and testing protocols. The actions taken build upon previous vaccination requirements made in July for federal employees, by taking away the option for routine testing with limited exceptions. They also expand requirements made last month on nursing home facilities to all healthcare facilities that receive funding from Medicare or Medicare; a move that will relieve concerns about the regulation’s impact on workforce shortages in nursing homes.
The impending regulations from CMS and OSHA are important for counties, who own and operate county health and long-term care facilities, while also employing more than 1 in 50 American workers. The Department of Labor and OSHA generally do not have regulatory authority over local governments and municipalities, however, the impending vaccination and testing regulation for employers with 100 or more employees may impact county employees who are in one of the 28 states that participate in OSHA-approved workplace safety and health programs. Click here to access information about OSHA state plans.
The timeline for the release of vaccine and testing regulations is not yet known. NACo will continue to monitor and report on administrative and regulatory action being taken and the impact on counties.
- Watch: President Biden announces his new COVID-19 Action Plan
- New COVID-19 Action Plan: The Path Out of the Pandemic