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Feds mandate vaccines or tests for big companies by Jan. 4

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said companies that fail to comply could face penalties of nearly $14,000 per violation.

Millions of U.S. workers now have a Jan. 4 deadline to get a COVID vaccine.

The federal government on Thursday announced new vaccine requirements for workers at companies with more than 100 employees as well as workers at health care facilities that treat Medicare and Medicaid patients.

According to the mandate, these employees will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4, or get tested for the virus weekly and wear a mask in the workplace.

Workers at nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities that receive money from Medicare and Medicaid will not have an option for testing — they will need to be vaccinated.

The government also extended a deadline for federal contractors. That requirement was scheduled to take effect Dec. 8, but the administration said Thursday it will be delayed until Jan. 4 to match the requirements on other large employers and health care providers.

Last week, Florida was among 19 states that sued to stop Biden’s narrower mandate that employees of federal contractors be vaccinated. Florida has also filed for a preliminary injunction to block the contractor mandates in federal court in Tampa.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis contends, in part, that President Joe Biden overstepped his authority with the requirements and that Florida would be injured because state agencies have contracts with the federal government. As an example, it cited a $12 million contract that the University of Florida received last year from NASA.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says companies that fail to comply could face penalties of nearly $14,000 per violation.

The new requirements were first previewed by Biden in September. They will apply to about 84 million workers.

A senior administration official says OSHA would target companies if it gets complaints.

The Biden administration says 70% of all adult Americans are now fully vaccinated. The new rules are aimed at the approximately 65 million Americans who remain unvaccinated.

Information from News Service of Florida was used in this report.

Read of this story from the Associated Press.