On October 6, 2021, the Philadelphia Department of Health announced extensions to the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which applies to covered healthcare workers and anyone who works, volunteers, or attends a or more courses or other activities related to a university, college or junior college and has in-person contact with one or more of these persons (subject to certain exemptions). Originally slated to go into effect on Oct. 15, 2021, Philadelphia has lengthened and staggered timelines to provide healthcare facilities, colleges and universities with additional time to comply.
On August 12, 2021, the Philadelphia Board of Health promulgated two new emergency regulations to deal with the most recent wave of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.
The Philadelphia First Emergency Regulation adopted and amended on June 15, 2021, “Emergency Ordinance Establishing Safety Measures for Full Reopening to Prevent the Spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID19)”, as amended, to require masks in all indoor commercial environments, with some exceptions. Importantly, and as a reminder, these interior masking requirements remain in effect as of this Alertrelease of.
The second emergency regulation required that, by October 15, 2021, all covered healthcare staff and all university / college staff, students and faculty be vaccinated against COVID-19, unless the person is eligible for an exemption. Originally, the Board of Health gave healthcare institutions, colleges and universities about two months to prepare for the new immunization requirements.
New vaccination requirements
Under the regulations, an individual is considered fully vaccinated when two weeks have elapsed since the individual received the final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as recommended by the Food and Drug Administration or the World Organization. health.
Covered health personnel
According to the regulations, once in force, no “healthcare facility”, which is broadly defined, will employ, contract or otherwise use the services of “covered healthcare personnel” (which broadly includes any person working, learning or volunteering in a building where patients and / or visitors are present, whether or not the person has direct contact with the patient and “health workers”), unless such staff (i) have been fully vaccinated or (ii) receives a religious or medical exemption and complies with one or more arrangements adopted by the health establishment. Likewise, no healthcare worker, as defined by emergency regulations, may work in a healthcare facility or provide “healthcare-related services” to a patient or client in Philadelphia unless that worker (i) has been fully immunized or (ii) has been granted a religious or medical exemption and documents continued compliance with one or more of the accommodations set out in the emergency regulations. These requirements exclude people who work or volunteer entirely through telecommunications devices.
The emergency regulations specify that the Health Establishments “grant” exemptions if a person is eligible and undertakes in writing to respect the accommodation (s). More specifically, if a person benefits from a religious or medical exemption, the Health Establishment must provide one or more of the following arrangements:
- Require exempt individuals (including an exempt self-employed health worker) to undergo PCR or antigen testing at least twice a week, at a time appropriate in the circumstances; Where
- If possible, allow an exempt person to engage with the health facility by entirely remote means.
Once the emergency regulations are in effect, no university, college or junior college shall employ, contract with, otherwise use the services of or permit on campus for classes. in an interior setting anyone who works, volunteers, or attends one or more classes or other activities on campus (and who has face-to-face contact with one or more other people) unless that person (i) has been fully immunized or ( ii) has obtained a religious or medical exemption certificate. These requirements exclude people who work or attend classes (or other activities) entirely through telecommunications devices.
As with health institutions, “higher education institutions” “grant” exemptions to those who are entitled to them and provide housing. However, the approved accommodation options are different and include the following:
- Require exempted people to undergo a PCR test for COVID-19 at least once a week Where an antigen test for COVID-19 at least twice a week, timed appropriately in the circumstances;
- If the higher education institution has 90 percent or more of its covered individuals fully immunized, requiring exempt individuals to double their masks indoors and stay at least 6 feet from others at all times, whether on campus or engaged in an activity affiliated with the off-campus school (double masking means wearing a properly fitted fabric mask over a properly fitted surgical mask or a properly fitted respirator equivalent to an N95); Where
- If possible, allow an exempt person to engage with the school by totally remote means.
It is important to note that this vaccination requirement explicitly applies to contractors on college and university campuses, although, according to guidelines released on August 13, 2021, contracting agencies will be responsible for maintaining vaccination and testing records. .
On October 6, 2021, Philadelphia issued the following extensions to comply with the vaccine mandate:
Friday, October 15, 2021: All healthcare workers in hospitals and long-term care facilities, and everyone in higher education, need at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and regular testing based on their environment.
Friday, October 22, 2021: All other healthcare workers, except those in hospitals or long-term care facilities, need at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and should be tested twice a week at using antigen testing or PCR.
Monday, November 15, 2021: All health workers in hospitals and long-term care facilities, and everyone in higher education, should have completed their series of vaccines.
Monday, November 22, 2021: All other healthcare workers, except those in hospitals or long-term care facilities, must have completed their immunization series.
Note that these extensions depend on the circumstances and contain interim testing requirements.
What this means for Philadelphia employers
The issues surrounding COVID-19 vaccine requirements are complex, especially for employers operating in Philadelphia, as well as other jurisdictions. An employer should not only consider state and local immunization requirements, but also President Joe Biden’s executive orders for federal employees and federal contractors and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines on mitigation and preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. , COVID-19 Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard, as well as the Pending Emergency Standard for Employers with 100 or More Employees, which was recently submitted by OSHA to the White House Regulatory Office for final review. Adding to this complexity, in at least two states, Montana and Texas, there are bans against private employers requiring COVID-19 vaccines, and other states could potentially follow suit.
The complexities do not lie only in potential jurisdictional differences; there is also the interplay between immunization mandates (whether required by law or by company choice) and laws which provide for accommodations for certain qualified individuals, usually on the basis of religious beliefs or of a disability.
Overall, employers need to be cautious while considering and balancing various interests and demands, as many of these issues are new and future regulations may affect policy decisions implemented today. We strongly encourage employers to consult a lawyer to analyze the implications of these additional legal requirements in order to take into account the specific circumstances and needs of the employer.
About Duane Morris
Duane Morris has created a COVID-19 strategy team to help employers plan, respond and cope with this rapidly changing situation. Contact your lawyer Duane Morris for more information. Before
Alerts on the subject are available on the team’s web page.
For more information
If you have any questions about this Alert, please contact Linda B. Hollinshead, Elizabeth Mincer, one of the lawyers in our Employment, Labor, Benefits and Immigration practice group.
Disclaimer: This alert has been prepared and posted for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should it be construed as legal advice. For more information, please consult the full warning.