HHS secretary says Biden administration moving forward with vaccine mandate at large businesses

Virus Outbreak Q A
Posted at 2:36 PM, Nov 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-18 17:44:11-05

NORFOLK, Va. - The Secretary of Health and Human Services said the Biden administration is moving forward with a proposed vaccine mandate on businesses with more than 100 employees.

"We're going to try to move forward with that. We know that some people are challenging that. The President is determined to keep you safe and give you peace of mind," Sec. Xavier Becerra said Thursday during an event in Richmond with Gov. Ralph Northam and other health leaders.

Becerra's comments come as OSHA announced it would suspend implementation and enforcement of the vaccine mandate, requiring employees at large companies to get vaccinated or tested weekly.

"While OSHA remains confident in its authority to protect workers in emergencies, OSHA has suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the ETS pending future developments in the litigation," the agency said in statement.

The Biden administration had said the rules would take effect on January 4, but several groups came out in opposition including the National Retail Federation.

A court ruled on the side of NRF and other groups, ordering no implementation happen while the legality of the mandate is challenged.

NRF said the mandate was happening at the worst time during the busy holiday season.

“We will continue our efforts to ensure that businesses, their employees, the consumers they serve and the communities where they operate are not unduly burdened and disadvantaged by well-intentioned yet misguided policy and regulations that sound good in concept but have no basis of fact as to the reality of how we move beyond the pandemic," NRF said in a statement.

While the legal uncertainty continues, the Biden administration is vowing to press on.

"The President said we're going to do everything we can with federal authority to make sure that people get vaccinated," Becerra said.

As for the impact to the local economy, local companies, like Ferguson, tell News 3 they're still figuring out what the guidance means for them.

Old Dominion University economist Dr. Robert McNab says the back-and-forth can make things tougher on businesses.

"The more the rules change and the more uncertainty the harder it is for employers to adjust," said McNab.

Related: 'Y'all did us wrong': Newport News Shipbuilding employees react to vaccine mandate suspension

McNab believes if the focus was on health and not politics the goal may be achieved.

"At the end of the day what we may end up getting to is people fully vaccinated, but through their own choices and through employers deciding it's in the best interest of their business, employees and customers rather than a unilateral decision from the federal government," he said.

Click here for our full COVID vaccination guide.