On September 9, 2021, President Biden released a six-part plan (known as the Path Out of the Pandemic Plan) aimed at combating COVID-19 and keeping Americans safe.
The plan includes these elements:
- Vaccinating the unvaccinated
- Further protecting the vaccinated
- Keeping schools safely open
- Increasing testing and requiring masking
- Protecting our economic recovery
- Improving care for those with COVID-19
Below, we’ll dive into each part and highlight how this plan may affect your business and your employees.
Part 1: Vaccinating the unvaccinated
Over 175 million Americans are vaccinated and the vaccine is now available to all over the age of 11. In this initial part of the Path Out of Pandemic Plan, the president makes it clear his administration is prioritizing getting more of those who are eligible immunized.
This directly affects employers, so pay close attention!
- The president has directed OSHA to develop a rule that will require employers with 100 or more employees to mandate vaccinations or require unvaccinated workers to produce a negative COVID-19 test weekly before coming to work.
- OSHA is also developing a rule to require employers with over 100 employees to provide paid time off for workers to receive the vaccine or for workers who are suffered from side effects of the vaccine.
- An executive order has been signed to require all employees and contractors of the federal executive branch to be vaccinated. Additionally, vaccinations will be required in almost all workplaces that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding.
- The president is calling on large entertainment venues (think: concert halls and sports arenas) to require that patrons show proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test before being allowed to enter.
Part 2: Further protecting the vaccinated
While a large portion of the population has already received two vaccine shots, it is becoming increasingly apparent that booster shots may offer additional protection.
In this part of the plan, the federal government has committed to getting free booster shots to all eligible Americans and to make them easy to access.
The government has also set up a call center so that anyone can call to find out where to get a free shot. In December, this number (available in over 150 languages) will inform callers on how to access a vaccine booster: 1(800)232-0233. Text information will also be available.
Part 3: Keeping schools safely open
In this part of the plan, the federal government aims to ensure the safety of students and their families while enabling children to attend school.
Here are the highlights:
- Certain staff, including those who work at Head Start programs, Department of Defense schools, and Bureau of Indian education-operated schools, will be required to vaccinate.
- To date, nine states require vaccinations for public school teachers and staff; in this plan, the president is calling on all states within the country to adopt similar requirements.
- In states where funding has been cut due to educators implementing CDC-recommended strategies (like masking) the federal government will step in to fill gaps and provide those funds.
- The Department of Education has launched an investigation into specific states that have prohibited mask mandates at schools.
- $10 billion in HHS funding has been provided to offer COVID-19 testing for students and staff in public schools throughout the country.
- The federal government is supporting research on the safety of vaccines for children under 12 years of age.
Part 4: Increasing testing and requiring masking
Part 4 of the plan is designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 by making tests more available and by normalizing mask-wearing.
Here’s what’s about to happen with testing:
- Production of COVID-19 tests will accelerate: this includes rapid tests and at-home tests. The government has committed to ramping up manufacturing, procuring more tests, and distributing them throughout the country.
- At-home tests will be discounted for three months: Amazon, Walmart, and Kroger will offer COVID-19 at-home testing kits for about 35 percent less than the typical price for the few months.
- Food banks and community health centers are being shipped millions of free tests.
- The number of pharmacies that offer free tests will be expanded throughout the U.S.
Nothing much has changed when it comes to masking; the new plan simply reiterates what previous executive orders have articulated:
- Back in January of 2021, President Biden released an executive order that directed agencies to require mask-wearing on certain modes of public transportation (like planes, trains, and certain buses). Under this plan, the president will double fines for those who do not comply.
- In another executive order released in January, the president required masks and social distancing in all feral buildings, lands, and n military bases. This will continue under the Path Out of the Pandemic Plan.
Part 5: Protecting our economic recovery
This is for you, business owners, so listen up!
- Changes have been announced to the COVID EIDL program: the loan cap has been increased, eligibility has been expanded, and acceptable use of EIDL funds has been broadened. (Already received an EIDL? You may be able to apply to get your loan amount increased!) Get all the details on key updates to the COVID EIDL program here.
- PPP forgiveness process has been streamlined: if you’ve been paying attention, you already know about this. On August 4, 2021, the administration launched a new process and an SBA portal that makes getting your PPP loan forgiven a lot simpler. Get all the details on streamlined PPP forgiveness here.
- An SBA Community Navigator program will launch in the fall: this program will help connect small business owners in underserved communities with resources that can help their businesses thrive. Community Navigators will act as guides to these employers, ushering them toward the government agencies that can assist them.
Part 6: Improving care for those with COVID-19
This part of the plan is aimed at providing those who have contracted coronavirus with more effective treatment and reducing hospitalizations and deaths. There isn’t anything here that is particularly relevant for employers, so we’ll be brief.
Here are the key points; the federal government will:
- Increase support for hospitals by using federal programs to deploy more clinics and experts who are equipped and educated to care for patients with COVID-19.
- Accelerate and increase shipments of antibody treatment to patients afflicted with the virus.
- Educate more healthcare professionals on administering antibody treatments. The government has ramped up training and technical assistance to increase the pool of professionals who have the skills to administer this COVID-19 therapy.
And there you have it, folks! Stay tuned as we learn more about how this administration will combat the COVID-19 pandemic.