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COVID-19: New Variant; CMS Vaccine Mandate Halted in 10 States

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released data regarding the percentage of employees at each agency who are in compliance with the federal vaccine mandate, as well as the number of employees who have received at least one dose as of Nov. 23. All agencies have more than 94 percent of their staff in compliance (having at least one dose or an exception or extension pending or approved). More than 80 percent of staff from each agency have at least one dose of the vaccine.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra in a statement commended HHS for its 96 percent vaccination rate.

New COVID-19 Variant: Omicron

The World Health Organization (WHO) Nov. 26 classified a new COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.529, referred to as omicron. The variant was first reported in South Africa. To date, no cases have been identified in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that it is continuously monitoring the variants and working with other U.S. and global public health and industry partners to learn more about the variant. Effective Nov. 29, President Joe Biden ordered air restrictions for travelers to the United States from South Africa and seven other countries in Africa.

In a briefing, Chief Medical Advisor Anthony Fauci, MD, noted it will take a couple weeks for more definitive information, but he continues to believe existing COVID-19 vaccines are likely to provide a level of protection against severe cases. The White House COVID-19 response team’s immediate recommendation to all vaccinated adults is to get a booster shot as soon as possible.

OSHA Vaccination Requirements Halted

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Nov. 12 granted a motion to stay Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). The ETS, published Nov. 5, applies to employers with at least 100 employees. While OSHA remains confident in its authority, it has suspended activity related to the ETS pending further developments in the litigation.

CMS Vaccine Rule Paused in Select States

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri Nov. 29 granted a preliminary injunction preventing the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) from enforcing its vaccine mandate rule in 10 states: Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Fourteen other states also have filed federal lawsuits challenging the CMS rule, which has a phase 1 compliance date of Dec. 6.

Visit the America’s Essential Hospitals coronavirus resource page for more information about the pandemic.

Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at eomalley@essentialhospitals.org or 202.585.0127 with questions.

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About the Author

Abigail Painchaud is a policy associate at America's Essential Hospitals.

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