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Workers face Jan. 4 deadline as Biden rolls out COVID-19 vaccine rules for large businesses

WASHINGTON – Workers at larger businesses will have to get vaccinated for COVID-19 by Jan. 4, 2022, or face regular testing under new federal rules being released Thursday.

Workers who choose the testing option may have to bear the cost. They also will be required to wear a face mask on the job, beginning on Dec. 5.

The rules fill in the details for the vaccination requirement President Joe Biden announced in September for businesses with 100 or more employees.

"COVID-19 continues to hold back our workforce and our economy – and it will continue to do so until more Americans are vaccinated," Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, wrote in an opinion piece for USA TODAY . Abe Oluwasegun, an advanced practice registered nurse, readies a vaccine during a clinic in the West End of Louisville, Kentucky, at the Shawnee Arts & Cultural Center on Oct. 14. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirement also applies to state and local government workers in 26 states, including teachers and school staff.

Twenty-one of those states have the option of writing their own workplace rules for public and private sector workers. But those rules can’t be weaker than what the federal government is requiring – and must be adopted in 30 days.

Three states, Arizona, South Carolina and Utah, have already missed the deadline for adopting an emergency rule OSHA issued in June for health care workers.

The latest federal rules, which cover an estimated 84 million employees, are expected to be immediately challenged by GOP-led states, some of which have already moved to ban vaccination requirements.

"When the Biden Administration issues the OSHA vaccine mandate in the coming days, we will take immediate legal action," Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said last week . Debate, challenges expected quickly

Republicans have denounced the workplace requirement as federal overreach and a threat to individual liberty that will result in massive disruptions in the labor market.

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