Due to an emergency temporary standard issued through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, both the Cambridge City Council and the Cambridge-Isanti School Board adopted an employee vaccination, testing and face covering policy during meetings held on Jan. 3.

Cambridge City Administrator Evan Vogel explained that on Dec. 17, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals dissolved the stay that had been put in place by the 5th Circuit Court halting enforcement of the OSHA emergency temporary standard. As a result, new timelines were set and the emergency temporary standard is set to take effect Jan. 10, with the testing requirements to begin on Feb. 9.

According to a summary document provided by OSHA, the emergency temporary standard is to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace. The standard establishes binding requirements to protect unvaccinated employees of large employers (100 or more employees) from the risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace. The standard requires employers to develop, implement and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 policy.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on the emergency temporary standard on Jan. 7, and the policies adopted by the City Council and School Board are only in effect if legally required.

The policies passed by the council and board are very similar, with only minor changes when referring to the city or school district.

The emergency temporary standard requires employers to determine the vaccination status of each employee, obtain acceptable proof of vaccination, maintain records of each employee’s vaccination status, and maintain a roster of each employee’s vaccination status. The policy states that independent contractors or volunteers are not considered employees for the purpose of the policy.

Both Vogel and Shawn Kirkeide, director of human resources and administrative services for Cambridge-Isanti Schools, said the policy is not imposing a vaccine mandate for its employees in order to comply with the requirements of the emergency temporary standards.

Any employee not fully vaccinated by Feb. 9 will be subject to the weekly testing and face covering requirements of the policy until they become fully vaccinated. The face covering requirements set forth in the policy will begin on Jan. 10 or when the face covering requirement in the standard is legally enforceable, whichever occurs later. Weekly testing requirements set forth in the policy will begin on Feb. 9 or when the testing requirements set forth become legally enforceable, whichever occurs later.

Both Vogel and Kirkeide said the logistics of the testing are still being worked out, such as where the testing will take place. Vogel said the city may look at setting a designated time at Cambridge Medical Center for weekly testing or have an option where tests are administered at Cambridge City Hall. Kirkeide said school district COVID-19 testing currently takes place in the nurses’ offices within each school building, but noted the district does have employees who work outside school buildings.

As for face coverings, the emergency temporary standard states that all employees must wear a face covering while indoors or in a vehicle while occupied by any other passengers. The only exceptions to the face covering requirement is when the employee is alone in a room that has a closed door; or for a limited time while the employee is eating or drinking.

A slight difference in the polices is that the city of Cambridge said it will pay for the costs of COVID-19 testing when the test is obtained from a test location and provider approved by the city. The school district policy states it “may pay for employee testing, but is not legally required to do so.”

Both policies also state an employee may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation if the employee is unable to comply with the requirements of the policy because of a medical condition, disability, or a sincerely held religious belief, practice or observance. Requests for reasonable accommodations need to be made by the employee and will be addressed on a case-by-case basis for both the city and the school district.

Both Vogel and Kirkeide said their respective entities would be subject to thousands of dollars in fines if the OSHA emergency temporary standard is not followed. Kirkeide noted that any complaints made to OSHA about non-compliance will be investigated by OSHA.

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