With just over 50% of the American population fully vaccinated and the rise of the Delta variant, the Biden administration’s goals are currently to vaccinate the unvaccinated, further protect the vaccinated, keep schools safely open, increase testing, protect economic recovery, and improve care for those with COVID-19.
The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and health Administration (OSHA) is working toward requiring all employers with 100 or more employees to require unvaccinated employees to either get vaccinated or be tested weekly, according to the White House. By their estimation, this will impact over 80 million workers in the private sector. Although many business groups have praised the White House for its stance on the pandemic, there has been fierce opposition from Republicans, according to the Washington Post.
Republican attorneys general in more than 24 states are acting in legal opposition to the rule. Some are filing against the administration, and others are exploring legislative exemptions, according to the Washington Post. This will likely complicate the legal situation in Michigan surrounding the constitutionality of various pandemic-era policies as the rulings in these cases are released.
When asked about the constitutionality of vaccine mandates, Kristin Olbertson, Associate Professor of History at Alma College, said that “the Supreme Court has ruled that local governments can require community members to be vaccinated.”
“States have fairly broad powers, called ‘police powers,’ to act to protect the health and safety of their citizens,” said Olbertson. “When private businesses require vaccines for employees or customers, this generally does not raise any constitutional issues, because people can choose to work or take their business elsewhere.”
Similarly, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission affirmed that public and private employers are legally able to require vaccinations and use threat of termination as enforcement, according to the Washington Post. Many businesses independently see the benefit of having a fully vaccinated staff and have already instituted vaccine requirements voluntarily. The OSHA policy has not drawn notable opposition from primary business lobbying groups thus far, according to the Washington Post.
“In non-healthcare settings…, [having fully vaccinated employees] would permit all employees to work without mask [and] would lower the risk of COVID exposure at work, thus minimizing employee absences…” said Olbertson.
The pandemic has disrupted our lives in profound ways and has done so for a prolonged period. With the rise of the Delta variant complicating our return to normalcy, every person should seriously consider vaccination and adhering to pandemic protocols.