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Touting the industry’s success in COVID-19 vaccination of staff members, senior living leaders expressed relief Tuesday after the federal government announced its withdrawal of the COVID-19 vaccination-and-testing emergency temporary standard for larger employers.
As McKnight’s Senior Living reported yesterday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced that it was withdrawing the interim final rule as an enforceable emergency temporary standard but cautioned that it was “not withdrawing the ETS as a proposed rule.” The mandate would have applied to companies with 100 or more workers, affecting an estimated 1.8 million workplaces and 84 million workers nationwide.
“Assisted living communities and other residential care facilities are already uniquely focused on encouraging our frontline workers to get vaccinated and / or test regularly,” National Center for Assisted Living Executive Director LaShuan Bethea told McKnight’s Senior Living. “We remain committed to ongoing education about the importance of the vaccines in order to help protect those who live and work in assisted living.”
In comments sent last week to OSHA regarding the standard, Argentum President and CEO James Balda said that Argentum was concerned about a federal mandate, and he pointed to the success that assisted living and other senior living settings have had in implementing employer requirements.
In a joint letter to OSHA in August, the leaders of the American Health Care Association / NCAL, Argentum, the American Seniors Housing Association, LeadingAge and the Pediatric Complex Care Association said that long-term and post-acute care providers continue to focus on protecting older adults in the face of the ongoing pandemic. The standard, they said at the time, “adds a layer of confusion and interferes with the abilities of professionals to make good, clinical decisions.”
Tuesday, LeadingAge reiterated OSHA’s encouragement for vaccination of workers, with the aging services organization calling vaccines and boosters the “most powerful tools we have in the battle against COVID-19.”
“As parts of our country continue to deal with surgeon omicron cases, we encourage all members, regardless of care setting and community type, to ensure staff get vaccinated,” a LeadingAge spokesperson told McKnight’s Senior Living.
The withdrawal of the emergency temporary standard comes after the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 13 temporarily halted the mandate while it continued to be considered in challenges before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. Tuesday, OSHA asked the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss the petitions challenging its COVID-19 vaccination-and-testing emergency temporary standard, because the withdrawal makes them moot.