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Summer may be winding out, but let's face it, COVID-19 (unfortunately) isn't going anywhere. Between the emerging new-ish variants (see: Mu) and the relentless Delta strain, the vaccines remain the best line of defense against the virus itself. And while 177 million Americans are already fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President Joe Biden just announced new federal vaccine requirements that will affect as many as 100 million citizens.
Biden, who spoke Thursday from the White House, implored a new measure in which companies with at least 100 employees must mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for its workers or test for the virus regularly, according to the Associated Press. This would include private-sector employees as well as federal workers and contractors — all of whom count for about 80 million individuals. Those employed at health care facilities and receive federal Medicare and Medicaid — about 17 million people, according to the AP — will also have to be completely vaccinated to work. (See: How Effective Is the COVID-19 Vaccine?)
"We have been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us," said Biden on Thursday, referencing those who have not yet been vaccinated. (FYI, 62.7 percent of the total U.S. population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to recent CDC data.)
The vaccine mandate itself is being developed by the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which, ICYDK, sets out to ensure safe working conditions for Americans. The OSHA will have to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard, which is usually released after the organization determines that "workers are in grave danger due to exposure to toxic substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or to new hazards," according to OSHA's official website. Although it remains unclear when this mandate will go into effect, the companies that fail to adhere to this forthcoming rule could get hit with a $14,000 fine per violation, according to the AP.
Currently, the highly contagious Delta variant counts for the majority of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to recent CDC data. And with many folks likely heading back to the office later this year or in early 2022, it's imperative to take extra precautions. In addition to masking up and social distancing and getting vaccinated in the first place, you can also get your COVID-19 booster when available (which is about eight months after you've received your second dose of either the two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines). Every step in protecting yourself against COVID-19 could potentially protect others as well.
The information in this story is accurate as of press time. As updates about coronavirus COVID-19 continue to evolve, it's possible that some information and recommendations in this story have changed since initial publication. We encourage you to check in regularly with resources such as the CDC, the WHO, and your local public health department for the most up-to-date data and recommendations.