An estimated two-thirds of Utah workers — maybe even more — fall under new federal COVID-19 vaccination and testing mandates announced by Pres. Joe Biden recently. The new rules are part of Biden’s stepped-up plan to combat the pandemic that has taken a dramatic turn for the worse over the summer.
Biden announced his six-point plan to boost vaccinations, improve access to testing and make coronavirus treatments more widely available. The new mandates cover about 100 million workers in the U.S. and as many as 1 million in Utah.
Under Biden’s mandates, all workers at businesses with more than 100 employees must have proof of COVID-19 vaccination or provide a weekly negative test for the virus. Biden ordered the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue an “emergency temporary standard” implementing the new requirement, which will cover 80 million private-sector workers, according to The Wall Street Journal. Businesses that don’t comply could face fines of up to $14,000 per violation. Employers are also required to give workers paid leave to get vaccinated or to recover from the side effects of the shots.
Federal employees — including an estimated 35,000 in Utah, according to governing.com — also fall under the Biden mandates.
As expected, Republicans — most of whom consider themselves pro-vaccination but anti-mandate — moved to condemn Biden’s move, with a number of Republican governors threatening lawsuits to stop the administration’s mandates on constitutionality grounds
Utah Sen. Mike Lee took to Twitter to condemn the president’s actions. “From ignoring property rights, to shirking his duty at the border, and now, coercing private citizens to undergo a medical procedure, Joe Biden has shown a wanton disregard for the U.S. Constitution. As a would-be autocrat, Biden endangers the very fibers of this great nation. Freedom and agency are the hallmarks of the American experiment.”
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said his office is reviewing Biden’s orders and “will fight any unconstitutional limitation of individual liberties and privacy.”
“Regardless of where you stand on vaccinations overall, the federal government should not be able to mandate such a personal medical decision to employers and individuals,” a statement from Reyes’ office said.