Breaking News on the CMS Vaccination Rule: Less Than 24 Hours After Being Shelved in 10 States, the Rule Is Sidelined Nationwide

In a November 30, 2021, order, a federal judge sitting in Louisiana entered a nationwide preliminary injunction against the Biden administration’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) interim final rule entitled “Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Omnibus COVID-19 Health Care Staff Vaccination.” The effect of the order is that CMS must immediately “cease all implementation or enforcement of the [CMS] Rule” in the remaining 40 states not covered by an earlier November 29, 2021, order from a federal judge sitting in Missouri that prevented implementation and enforcement of the CMS rule in only 10 states.

Back to the Future: White House Restricts Travel to the United States From 8 Countries Due to New COVID-19 Variant

On November 26, 2021, President Joe Biden issued a presidential proclamation prohibiting travel into the United States for travelers who were physically present in eight countries in southern Africa (Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe), beginning on Monday, November 29, 2021. The restrictions, which prohibit travel from these eight African countries, come approximately three weeks after the White House relaxed prior location-based travel restrictions, moving to vaccination status-based travel restrictions on November 8, 2021.

Federal Judge Shelves President Biden’s CMS Vaccine Mandate … But in Only 10 States

In a 32-page order issued on November 29, 2021, United States District Judge Matthew T. Schelp entered a preliminary injunction against the Biden administration’s Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) interim final rule entitled “Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Omnibus COVID-19 Health Care Staff Vaccination.”

Mexico’s COVID-19 Traffic Light Monitoring System: News for November 15–28, 2021

All but one of Mexico’s 32 states have been cleared by the federal government to open for business and social affairs without restrictions under the nation’s COVID-19 traffic light monitoring system—the largest number of states in green-light status since the system was implemented in June 2020.

Germany’s Bundestag Plans to Implement 3G Rule (Vaccinated, Recovered, or Tested) for Workplaces and Home Offices

On November 18, 2021, Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, approved a renewed amendment to the Infection Protection Act that has important implications for employers and employees. The following day, the Bundesrat, Germany’s upper house of parliament, gave its approval to the legislation. The amendment and related measures will come into force on November 24, 2021.

Oregon OSHA Anticipates Delay in Adopting COVID-19 Vaccine or Test Standard

When the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a new emergency temporary standard (ETS) on November 4, 2021, Oregon OSHA had only 30 days to adopt its own standards, until December 4, 2021. However, in light of a federal court order staying the federal ETS, Oregon OSHA recently updated its website to state that it does not anticipate adopting a rule by December 4, 2021, although it is “continuing discussions with stakeholders.”

Employer-Provided COVID-19 Testing: An Employee Benefits Q&A

Although the fate of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) rules remains in limbo, many employers are moving ahead with efforts to comply with the OSHA emergency temporary standard (ETS) that requires employers with 100 or more employees to ensure that all are fully vaccinated or subject to COVID-19 testing at least weekly.

Mexico’s COVID-19 Traffic Light Monitoring System: News for November 1–14, 2021

The third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico has ebbed significantly in the last few weeks—enough for the federal government to lift all restrictions on social and business activities in nine states. Under Mexico’s four-tiered COVID-19 Traffic Light Monitoring System, those nine states are in “green light” status, the only restriction-free status. Because the pandemic is ongoing, Mexico’s health authorities have continued to urge the population to reduce the risk of infection by complying with government guidelines to prevent the further spread of the virus.

Court of Appeals Stays OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard

On November 6, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted a stay of the Emergency Temporary Standard issued this week by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The ETS would require employers with 100 or more employees to implement policies mandating that employees be vaccinated or provide documentation of a negative COVID-19 test at least every seven days.

CMS Gives a Boost and Takes a Shot at Full Vaccination for Millions of U.S. Healthcare Workers

Many hospitals and other healthcare organizations started mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for some or all of their workers over the last six months. Now all of the specified Medicare and Medicaid-certified provider and supplier types that are regulated under the Medicare health and safety standards must get all of their workers fully-vaccinated by January 4, 2022, pursuant to the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services’s Omnibus COVID-19 Health Care Staff Vaccination interim final rule.

OSHA Issues COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard: Employers With 100+ Employees Must Ensure Workers Are Either Vaccinated or Tested Weekly

On November 4, 2021, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a new emergency temporary standard (ETS) that requires employers with 100 or more employees to ensure that their employees are either fully vaccinated or subject to COVID-19 testing at least once per week. The ETS will be published in the Federal Register on November 5, 2021, and goes into effect on December 5, 2021. The ETS will cover approximately 84 million employees.

Federal OSHA’s COVID-19 ETS: Will It Change the Next ETS for California?

On November 4, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an emergency temporary standard (ETS) to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) was planning to update and adopt new language for the California COVID-19 ETS that would take effect in January 2022. However, California’s proposed language for the revised ETS does not match the language of OSHA’s ETS, leaving many wondering if California will now revise the proposed language to bring the California ETS into alignment with the federal standard and proceed with the “Horcher” adoption process to quickly adopt the federal OSHA requirements.

Iowa Strengthens Medical and Religious Exemptions From Vaccine Policies, Permits Individuals Discharged for Refusing Vaccines to Qualify for Unemployment Benefits

On October 29, 2021, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed House File 902 into law, a measure that requires Iowa employers with mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policies to waive their requirements for employees who seek vaccination exemptions for medical or religious reasons. The law also permits individuals to qualify for unemployment insurance benefits, even when they have been discharged from employment for refusing to receive COVID-19 vaccines.

White House Permits Air Travel Into the United States for Fully Vaccinated Nonimmigrant Travelers, Beginning November 8, 2021

On October 25, 2021, the White House issued a presidential proclamation revoking the following proclamations with country-specific COVID-19 travel restrictions: Proclamation 9984 (China); Proclamation 9992 (Iran); Proclamation 10143 (Brazil, Ireland, the Schengen Area, South Africa, and the United Kingdom); and Proclamation 10199 (India).

COVID-19 Vaccination Religious Exemption Requests: 5 Key Takeaways From the EEOC’s Updated Technical Assistance

On October 25, 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its technical assistance related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The updated and expanded COVID-19 technical assistance adds a new section with information related to requests by applicants or employees seeking to be excused from COVID-19 vaccination requirements due to sincerely held religious beliefs, practices, or observances.

IRS Clarifies Application of Deadline Extensions to COBRA

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently issued some much-needed guidance surrounding the application of deadline extensions that the IRS and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) previously issued for initial elections under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) and initial and subsequent premium payments.

The Public Health Emergency Supplemental Leave Requirement in Colorado Is Not Over

The pandemic may be waning, but the requirement for Colorado employers to provide supplemental public health emergency leave to employees under certain COVID-19–related circumstances continues. On October 15, 2021, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra announced another extension of the nationwide COVID-19 public health emergency, effective October 18, 2021.