Maine’s public employees, including teachers, will have to abide by President Joe Biden’s sweeping new rule requiring employers with over 100 workers to get COVID-19 vaccines or be tested weekly, the state’s labor department said Friday.
The rule would encompass state, county, local governments and public school systems, according to a release from the Maine Department of Labor, due to a 2015 agreement requiring the state to adopt and enforce all federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules. The state oversees health standards for state and local government employees, while the OSHA oversees the private sector.
The requirement will add to at least 169,000 Maine private-sector employees who will be required to get the shot under Biden’s directive, plus others covered by Gov. Janet Mills impending mandate for health care workers or other mandates from businesses. The state is required to adopt federal rules within 30 days, although they have not been finalized.
Some agencies, like the public university system, already require employees to be vaccinated. Maine’s government employees have not yet been required to get the shot, but needed to do so in order to work without masks in state offices.
Biden’s rule is already being challenged in federal courts, as Mills’ health care mandate has. But it will give public sector employers legal cover to get employees vaccinated. That issue has seen particular focus in the school system, where several outbreaks and more than 1,000 cases have already been reported and some districts have switched to remote learning.
Maine public health officials said this week a vaccine requirement for school staff could be a possibility with three-quarters of workers being fully vaccinated, but they wanted to see if that share would change first.