JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Government rules issued Thursday say tens of millions of Americans who work at companies with 100 or more employees will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4 or get tested for the virus weekly.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, an outspoken critic of the Biden administration and its COVID-19 policies who is considered a possible 2024 presidential candidate, was in Jacksonville Thursday and said he doesn’t believe the new rules will stick.
“They do not have the authority to unilaterally impose this through an executive agency like OSHA,” DeSantis said. “They’re abusing emergency power to be able to do what they would not be able to get through the Congress and do in a constitutional way. And so we are going to be challenging that and I think this rule is absolutely going down.”
During a second news conference in Tallahassee on Thursday, DeSantis said Florida, along with Alabama and Georgia and private plaintiffs, plan to file a lawsuit against the new rule.
Mayor Curry was also with the governor Thursday and agrees with his stance.
“I do not support mandating vaccines,” Curry said. “I am vaccinated, my wife is vaccinated, my children are vaccinated. That was a family decision. It was not taken lightly. Our kids had their own concerns but we eventually got there but I think that’s up to families and individuals.”
DeSantis sued the Biden administration over a similar mandate that affects federal contractors and called lawmakers into a special session on Nov. 15 to take up legislation to prevent vaccine mandates enacted by businesses.
“People should not be in a situation where they’re faced with the jab or their jobs,” DeSantis said. “People have been working, we don’t want to kick people out of jobs, and that’s true if you’re a police officer, if you’re a firefighter, it’s also true if you’re in the private sector, we want to protect people’s jobs.”
The new rule is causing some concerns for local businesses who are confused about what happens if they don’t comply.
News4Jax spoke to large companies that are headquartered here, like Gate Petroleum, hospitals and restaurants. They were all leery about going on record, but we were told there is a lot of concern about how this mandate will be enforced. They don’t want to fire people, but some companies say they will comply.
UF Health wants workers who are opting out of the vaccine to fill out forms by December. Gate Petroleum is reviewing the current policies and the same for Community First Credit Union which is also reviewing policies and says it’s their intention to comply.
The new requirements, which were first previewed by President Joe 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.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations will force the companies to require that unvaccinated workers test negative for COVID-19 at least once a week and wear a mask while in the workplace.
OSHA left open the possibility of expanding the requirement to smaller businesses. It asked for public comment on whether employers with fewer than 100 employees could handle vaccination or testing programs.
Tougher rules will apply to another 17 million people who work in nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities that receive money from Medicare and Medicaid. Those workers will not have an option for testing — they will need to be vaccinated.
Workers will be able to ask for exemptions on medical or religious grounds.
Biden framed the issue as a simple choice between getting more people vaccinated or prolonging the pandemic.
“While I would have much preferred that requirements not become necessary, too many people remain unvaccinated for us to get out of this pandemic for good,” Biden said in a statement.
Biden said his encouragement for businesses to impose mandates and his own previous requirements for the the military and federal contractors have helped reduce the number of unvaccinated Americans over 12 from 100 million in late July to about 60 million now.