A lot has happened in the United States since early September. In the entertainment world, Jamie Spears was suspended and subsequently removed as the conservator for his daughter, Brittany. In politics, California Governor Gavin Newsom won the recall election to finish out the second half of his term. And in sports, the Atlanta Braves bested the Houston Astros to win their first World Series since 1995. 

Also during the past few months, a flurry of activities surrounded President Biden’s Executive Order on Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees. Announced by the White House on September 9, the order was part of his administration’s Path Out of the Pandemic program, through which the president aimed to get around 84 million more Americans vaccinated. Roughly 790,000 people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19. As of December 7, 2021, approximately 198 million Americans (60.1 percent of the total population) have been fully vaccinated. 

The most recent setback to the orders occurred on Wednesday, December 8, when the U.S. Senate voted to overturn the Biden administration’s proposed rule that large private employers must require their workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested or face losing their jobs. The vote is largely symbolic because the White House has said President Biden will veto it if it reaches his desk.

These and other changes and challenges to the vaccine mandate seem to occur almost weekly. We’ve compiled a timeline to help you keep apprised of the latest news surrounding the executive order along with recommendations on how healthcare providers can conduct outreach to keep their patients apprised of vaccine requirements and COVID-19 test results. 

December 7, 2021: U.S. Court Temporarily Halts Vaccine Mandate for Federal Contractors

A U.S. district court in Georgia halted the vaccine mandate for federal contractors, writing that the president likely exceeded his authority. The court said President Biden likely exceeded his authority under the Procurement Act when he issued the mandate.

December 2, 2021: President Biden Announces No Planned Expansion of Current Vaccine Requirements 

The Biden administration reported that its plan to fight COVID-19 during the winter would not include expansion of any of the current federal vaccine mandates or any shutdowns or lockdowns. The plan instead focuses on more booster shots and testing and consists of an expansion of free at-home Covid-19 testing. The administration will distribute 50 million free tests to health centers and rural clinics for people who are uninsured or underserved

November 30, 2021: Two Separate Rulings by Federal Judges Further Block Vaccine Mandates 

A ruling by a federal judge in Louisiana blocked the CMS vaccine mandate for healthcare employees nationwide at hospitals that receive federal funding, and one by a Kentucky-based federal judge paused the Administration’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. The CMS COVID-19 vaccine requirement for healthcare workers was scheduled to start on Dec. 6. The Louisiana judge stated that the CMS lacked the authority to issue such a vaccine mandate. 

November 29, 2021: Preliminary Injunction Ordered on CMS Vaccine Mandate for Healthcare Employees

A U.S. District Judge in Missouri temporarily blocked the CMS vaccine mandate in the ten states – Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North and South Dakota and Wyoming that sued the Biden administration, arguing that it was unconstitutional. Although the order prevents the federal government from mandating vaccination policies, most private employers still are able to voluntarily implement mandatory vaccination and/or testing policies

Also on Monday, November 29, the Biden administration announced that it would delay until 2022 issuing suspensions and other serious penalties related to noncompliance with its mandate that the federal workforce be vaccinated against COVID-19. Federal workers and employees of contractors doing business with the federal government are still required to be vaccinated, but they won’t be penalized until January 2022 for not getting the vaccine. 

November 23, 2021: White House Provides Update on Vaccination Status of Federal Employees 

A White House announcement noted that the federal government’s 3.5 million employees nationwide had achieved 96.5 percent compliance, including through medical or religious exemptions still being evaluated. The report from the Biden administration also pointed out that 92 percent of federal workers had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

November 6-12, 2021: OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard Suspended by U.S. Court of Appeals 

On November 6, the New Orleans-based Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an order temporarily halting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) “pending expedited judicial review.” Four days later, 10 states sued the Biden administration in response to the vaccine requirement for health workers, arguing that it encroaches on states’ rights and exceeds the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agency’s authority. 

On Friday, November 12, the federal appeals court affirmed its stay of the Administration’s vaccine requirement. As a result of this ruling, OSHA suspended enforcement of the mandate. 

November 4, 2021: New Vaccination Requirements Announced by OSHA and CMS 

A fact sheet released by the White House provided an overview of the COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The ETS requires employers with 100 or more employees to get their workers fully vaccinated by January 4, 2022. Under the vaccine mandate, all covered employers are responsible for making sure that any employees who have not received the necessary shots begin producing a verified negative test to their employer on at least a weekly basis. These employers must remove from the workplace any employee who receives a positive COVID-19 test or is diagnosed with COVID-19 by a licensed healthcare provider. 

The OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard, which covers about 84 million employees, also instructs covered employers to pay their workers for the time it takes to get vaccinated and ensure that all unvaccinated employers are masked. A similar requirement from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) mandates that healthcare workers at facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid are fully vaccinated. According to the White House, the rule applies to more than 17 million workers at approximately 76,000 healthcare facilities, including hospitals and long-term care facilities, whether their positions are clinical or non-clinical. 

The OSHA ETS has been challenged by more than two dozen states, as well as companies, business groups, unions and religious organizations. These entities filed nearly three dozen lawsuits challenging the mandate. 

Digital Technology for Patient Outreach

With so many changes to the government’s vaccine mandates, even the most up-to-date healthcare providers may have challenges in managing their vaccination outreach and giving COVID-19 test results to patients in a timely manner. At Providertech, our vaccine management program can help you effectively and efficiently manage communication about COVID-19 vaccines, whether initial or boosters,  while protecting their privacy. It can also aid in tracking vaccine distribution and receipt status and ensuring patients receive all doses in a series. 

Our HIPAA-compliant messaging platform automates laboratory test results delivery, enabling you to deliver COVID-19 test results faster via secure text and reduce unnecessary office visits. It allows you to provide “tracking” status of test results to your patients and securely display test results electronically to them. 

Schedule a demo with one of our talented team members to learn more about how these and other Providertech solutions can help you streamline your front office, improve patient access and enhance patient satisfaction.