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

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

Issued on Nov. 4, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s temporary emergency 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, DDS and other ADA leaders met with the White House Office of Management and Budget to discuss how the OSHA rule could affect dentistry. The mandate, if not blocked by the Supreme Court, would have applied to companies with 100 or more employees in all their locations, so it could have adversely affected large dental practices.

In a subsequent letter, the ADA told White House officials that research shows that infection rates with COVID-19 among dentists and dental teams are “very low, much lower than the infection rates for other health professionals such as nurses and doctors and even lower than the general population.” The Association also reported that the cumulative COVID-19 infection rate in November 2020 and October 2020 was only 2.6% for dentists and 3.9% for dental hygienists, respectively.

“With the low infection rates within our profession, dentistry has proven its ability to reduce risk while providing essential healthcare. Dental teams continue to implement improved infection control protocols and as of June 2021, nearly 90% of dentists were fully vaccinated .” said Dr. Sabates. “The ADA strongly encourages all members of the dental team to get vaccinated if they have not already done so.”

The Supreme Court also ruled on Jan. 13 to uphold a federal requirement that staff at federally funded healthcare facilities must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rule, also issued November 4, 2021, applies to both clinical and non-clinical personnel, as well as students, interns, and volunteers, and does not include a masking and testing option in lieu of vaccination.

The rule affects dentists who work in Medicare or Medicaid facilities, including hospitals, outpatient 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 practices that serve Medicare or Medicaid patients.


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