Supreme Court blocks COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement for large workplaces

Court upholds vaccine mandate for workers at federally funded health care facilities

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Jan. 13 to block a federal mandate that called for large employers to require their employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or wear face coverings and be tested weekly.

Issued on Nov. 4, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s emergency temporary standard also required employers to provide paid leave for vaccination and recovery time from any vaccine-related side effects.

In October 2021, 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. The mandate, if not blocked by the Supreme Court, would have applied to businesses with 100 or more employees across all of their locations, so it could have adversely affected large dental practices.

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.

"With the low infection rates within our profession, dentistry has proven its ability to mitigate risk while providing essential health care. Dental teams continue to implement enhanced infection control protocols, and as of June 2021, nearly 90% of dentists were fully vaccinated," Dr. Sabates said. "The ADA strongly encourages all members of the dental team to be vaccinated if they have not been already."

The Supreme Court also ruled Jan. 13 to uphold a federal requirement for staff at federally funded health care facilities to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ rule, also issued on Nov. 4, 2021, applies to both clinical and nonclinical staff, as well as students, trainees and volunteers, and does not include a masking and testing option in lieu of vaccination.

The rule affects dentists working in Medicare or Medicaid facilities, including hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, nursing homes and federally qualified health centers, and those who have hospital privileges or work for the Indian Health Service. The rule does not affect private dental practices, including those that serve Medicare or Medicaid patients.

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