On Thursday, President Joe Biden ordered a new federal vaccine mandate that could affect up to 100 million American workers in the private sector, health care industry, public sector, and federal contractors. The mandate would impact employers with over 100 employees. Your first question must be, “How does this impact schools?”
While MASA will continue to meet with MDHHS and MIOSHA officials to get an official answer, our quick analysis after consulting with our contacts in Washington and Lansing is that Michigan school employees are likely impacted by this announcement if the district employs more than 100 employees. President Biden’s plan for “Keeping Schools Open Safely” relies on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to regulate workplace safety and enforce the mandate and testing requirement through and Emergency Temporary Standard (EST). This applies to federal, state, and local public employees in states with OSHA plans, of which Michigan is one.
This means that all of Michigan’s school employees will have to be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.
The timeline of this rule is not yet clear, but for this order to come into effect, OSHA will have to issue an ETS, after which time the states with state plans have 30 days to act. What will likely be the case is that MIOSHA’s action will include a period of compliance, as was the case for healthcare workers in previous situations where an ETS was issued.
The plan specifically states that teachers and staff at Head Start and Early Head Start programs, teachers and child and youth program personnel at the Department of Defense (DOD), and teachers and staff at Bureau of Indian Education-operated schools get vaccinated. This particular component of the order does not appear to be dependent on the number of staff, rather the fact that they work for Head Start/Early Head Start. Again, we are working on official answers and will provide clarity as soon as possible.
The President has also called on states to adopt vaccine requirements for all school employees. As of this update, nine states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have vaccination requirements for K-12 school staff – California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Washington. The President also promised to bolster support for the FDA to review the vaccines to get them approved for children 12 and under as safely and as quickly as possible. Another component of President Biden’s plan involves regular testing, something that MDHHS is also encouraging through updated quarantine/isolation guidance released this week (see below).
As far as contractors with which districts may have agreements for service, they are likely subject to the mandate, but who would be responsible for enforcement – the district or the vendor – is not clear.
It’s important to reiterate, this is a very preliminary assessment of the President’s announcement and mandate. The details are subject to change after we dive deeper into the information, but we wanted to give you a quick analysis to address your most pressing question after Thursday’s news.