The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued an emergency temporary standard Nov. 4 requiring employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their employees are fully vaccinated or require their unvaccinated employees to wear face coverings and be tested weekly.
OSHA's emergency temporary standard, or ETS, also requires employers to provide paid leave for vaccination, as well as for recovery time from any vaccine-related side effects.
Also on Nov. 4, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued a corresponding rule that requires COVID-19 vaccination of eligible staff at health care facilities that participate in Medicare or Medicaid. The CMS rule applies regardless of whether the worker's position is clinical or nonclinical and applies to students, trainees and volunteers. There is no masking/testing option in lieu of vaccination for health care providers.
The ADA is currently reviewing both of these rules.
At this time, the OSHA standard will not impact dental practices with fewer than 100 employees across all locations of the business. The CMS rule will apply to dentists working in Medicare or Medicaid facilities such as hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, nursing homes and federally qualified health centers, but not private dental offices. Dentists with hospital privileges or who work for the Indian Health Service will also be affected.
In October, ADA President Cesar R. Sabates, D.D.S., and other ADA leaders met with the White House Office of Management and Budget to discuss how the OSHA rule could impact dentistry.
In a subsequent letter, the ADA told White House officials that research shows COVID-19 infection rates among dentists and dental teams are "very low, far lower than infection rates for other health care workers such as nurses and physicians and even lower than the general population." The Association also shared that the cumulative COVID-19 infection rate was just 2.6% for dentists and 3.9% for dental hygienists, in November 2020 and October 2020, respectively. The letter noted that as of June 2021, nearly 90% of dentists have been fully vaccinated.
Updated regulations may be issued in the future that affect more dentists. The White House has said businesses should move forward with the OSHA vaccine and testing requirements for private businesses, despite a federal appeals court ordering a temporary halt, and the fact that more court challenges are expected. The ADA will continue its advocacy efforts on this issue and will report on any further developments, particularly if the regulations change.