Legally Speaking: Understanding COVID-19 restrictions

Oct. 10, 2021

Question: I keep hearing different things about what I’m supposed to do and not do regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19). Some say I have to require social distancing, masks, vaccinations and/or negative COVID tests; others say I only can “recommend” them; still others tell me I can’t do anything. I’ll comply with the law — whatever that is — even though I disagree with it. Can you just tell me where to start?

Answer: I understand and appreciate your desire for a little clarity. It seems like every few days, a new rule, updated rule, retraction, interpretation or exemption appears. In fact, on Sept. 9, the Biden Administration unveiled new vaccination requirements for employers with more than 100 workers, mandating that:

All employers with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated or tested for the virus weekly, and provide paid time off for vaccinations, which will affect roughtly 80 million Americans.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services extend their vaccination requirements to cover a wide range of health care settings, reaching about 17 million additional workers. Employees of the executive branch of the federal government and all contractors who do business with the federal government be vaccinated with no option to test out. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to fine employers $14,000 per violation for noncompliance. The extensive new rules have reinvigorated the debate over whether vaccines, masks, quarantines and the wide range of requirements that surround them are healthy, necessary, effective, enforceable, avoidable and/or constitutional with respect to both individuals and businesses.

Complicating the issue is that authorities at all levels have been creating their own frequently modified rules and interpretations, prompting reactions ranging from posting strident warnings and barring entry to unvaccinated individuals on one side to ignoring the issue altogether and/or preparing legal challenges on the other. Politicization of the issue and the accompanying media frenzy have added to the confusion.

Identify what matters legally. What really should be done? Click here to read James Waites’ recommendation in the October issue of Rental Management magazine.

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