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America’s Hospital Regulator Wasn’t Designed for a Pandemic

According to this Politico article, the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has had difficulty enforcing its own COVID-19-related hospital rules. The agency often lacks the necessary resources to make sure its regulations are followed. McDermott Partner Sandra M. DiVarco said small changes—like allowing patients to wear highly protective N95 face masks—that CMS publicizes are “not always very coordinated.”

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New York State Ends COVID-19 HERO Act Designation

On March 17, 2022, New York State’s Commissioner of Health ended the designation of COVID-19 as an airborne infectious disease that presents a serious risk of harm to public health under the New York Health and Essential Rights (HERO) Act. As of that date, private sector employers in New York State are no longer required to implement their workforce safety plans.

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COVID-19 Response in Jeopardy amid Congressional Inaction

Congressional inaction may prevent a more robust federal government COVID-19 response, according to this Washington Post article. A $15 billion COVID-19 funding bill recently collapsed in Congress, potentially crippling testing, treatment and vaccine access. McDermott+Consulting’s Rodney Whitlock said not enough “spadework” was done to get compromises across the finish line.

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Four Discrimination Questions Employers Have About COVID-19

As the world enters the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers have gained a greater understanding about the virus’ relationship with US anti-discrimination laws. With the inevitable rise of future variants and long-haul COVID-19 cases, however, businesses are still navigating murky waters. In this Law360 article, McDermott Partner Lindsay Ditlow offers perspective about worker accommodation requests and what they mean for employers.

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Agencies Clarify How Employers Can Charge COVID-19 Vaccine Premium Incentives

US employers have grown increasingly interested in identifying incentives that increase COVID-19 vaccination among employees. The US Departments of Labor, Treasury and Human and Human Services recently issued guidance regarding the application of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) wellness rules to vaccine-related premium surcharges and discounts, clarifying that employers may charge vaccine premium incentives if they adhere to the requirements of activity-only health-contingent programs. In this Employee Benefit Plan Review article, McDermott Partner Judith Wethall and McDermott Associate Sarah G. Raaii outline what this HIPPA guidance means for employers.

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Saga and Legal Challenges Continue Despite Vaccine Requirement for Healthcare Workers

The US Supreme Court’s January ruling allowing the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to enforce its COVID-19 mandate is likely to continue to face challenges. Nevertheless, in this article published by the Health Care Compliance Association, McDermott Partner Sandra DiVarco said that the Supreme Court’s decision wasn’t a surprise.

“Many of [the CMS] providers may have slow-walked their compliance and now in theory need to be fully compliant,” DiVarco noted.

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California to Renew COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave for 2022

On January 25, 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that his office and state lawmakers had reached an agreement to reimplement a version of California’s COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave through September 30, 2022. It is expected that the state legislature will move quickly to finalize and vote on legislation to effectuate this statewide paid leave obligation.

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After High Court Loss, OSHA Looks to Other COVID-Curbing Means

The US Supreme Court’s January ruling that stayed enforcement of the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) shot-or-test mandate may limit some employers from introducing their own vaccination, testing or mask requirements. However, in this Bloomberg Law article, McDermott Partner Michelle Strowhiro said employers might still want to consider implementing portions of the standard—so long as state and local limits let them.

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OSHA Hints at Permanent COVID-19 Standard, Withdraws Vax-or-Test ETS

On January 25, 2022, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it would withdraw its controversial “vax-or-test” Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), which required large employers to impose vaccination or testing requirements upon their employees. The withdrawal will be effective as soon as the announcement is published in the Federal Register, which is scheduled to occur on January 26, 2022.

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