The new federal vaccine mandate requiring tens of millions of workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or submit to weekly testing aligns with Chicago's vaccination timeline, the city's top doctor said Thursday.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's emergency temporary standard mandates that all Americans who work at companies with 100 or more employees be vaccinated against COVID prior to Jan. 4, 2022, or get tested for the virus weekly.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the mandate matches the city's vaccination plan, though many businesses have already made decisions around whether or not to require employee to receive vaccines.
"My understanding is that [the mandate] will need to be in place by Jan. 4, and obviously, for the city of Chicago, that matches well with our timeline of having more than 30,000 employees [vaccinated]," Arwady said. "There are lots and lots and lots of businesses here in Chicago that have already made decisions around vaccine or vaccine and testing for their employees."
Chicago's vaccine mandate took effect on Oct. 15, requiring all city employees and volunteers to be fully vaccinated by that date. City employees can apply for medical or religious exemptions, but such requests will be reviewed by the Department of Human Resources on a case-by-case basis, the city said.
"The data shows that getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and those you come in contact with from serious illness, hospitalization or death from COVID-19," Arwady said in a statement. "Adopting and implementing this requirement is the responsible, common-sense approach, which is why we’re seeing so many other government agencies, companies, institutions, and organizations pursue this course of action."
“Fully vaccinated” is defined as two weeks past the second dose of a two-dose mRNA vaccine or two weeks past a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Employees need to submit proof of vaccination through an online COVID-19 Vaccine Portal.
On Thursday, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb directed state officials to work on a lawsuit challenging President Joe Biden's federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate, calling it an "outreach of the government's role."
Holcomb released a statement Thursday instructing the Indiana Department of Labor to join forces with the Attorney General, working on a lawsuit that would put to question OSHA's ETS requiring tens of millions of workers to receive the COVID vaccine or submit to weekly testing.
“I direct the Indiana Department of Labor to work with the Attorney General on a lawsuit challenging the federal government regarding the OSHA ETS," Holcomb said in a statement. "This is an overreach of the government’s role in serving and protecting Hoosiers. While I agree that the vaccine is the tool that will best protect against COVID-19, this federal government approach is unprecedented and will bring about harmful, unintended consequences in the supply chain and the workforce.”
The OSHA said companies that fail to comply could face penalties of nearly $14,000 per violation.
The new requirements, which were first previewed by President Biden in September, will apply to about 84 million workers at medium and large businesses, although it is not clear how many of those employees are unvaccinated.