A limited number of parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Archdiocesan Catholic Center in St. Paul would be impacted by federal COVID-19 vaccine requirements issued Nov. 4 but suspended two days later by court challenges.Some parishes in archdiocese could be impacted by federal vaccine rule – TheCatholicSpirit.com : TheCatholicSpirit.com
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s emergency temporary standards would require all employers across the country with 100 or more workers to ensure that by Jan. 4, their employees had been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus or were tested weekly.
President Joe Biden’s administration wants more people to be vaccinated to help prevent illness or lessen the impact of COVID-19 on individuals, which has infected more than 46 million people in the U.S. and killed more than 750,000 since it first appeared in the U.S. in early 2020. About 61% of adults in Minnesota and 59% across the country have been fully vaccinated, though vaccination rates vary region to region.
All provisions of the ETS and its requirements other than testing unvaccinated employees would have to be complied with by Dec. 5. Masking and testing requirements would apply to all unvaccinated employees, even those receiving exemptions.
Several states and employers immediately filed legal challenges to the mandate and more challenges are possible. On Nov. 6, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans granted a temporary stay to the order. It was unclear whether the temporary stay applied nationwide.
Joseph Kueppers, the archdiocese’s Chancellor for Civil Affairs, said Archbishop Bernard Hebda and other archdiocesan leaders were preparing to implement the ETS should the courts allow the rules to proceed. On Nov. 9, Kueppers shared a summary of the vaccination requirements and the archdiocese’s expectations in a memo to pastors, parochial administrators, heads of Catholic schools and business managers.
The ETS would require all employers to ensure that a) their workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, except in cases of medical contraindication, accommodation for disability or sincerely held religious beliefs, or b) allow employees to choose either vaccination against COVID-19 or weekly tests for the coronavirus while wearing a facemask at all times in the workplace.
The archdiocese would implement option B if the OSHA standard is allowed to go forward, and it is planning accordingly, Kueppers said in the memo.
Because the archdiocese has separately incorporated parishes, the rules would not apply to parishes and schools that have fewer than 100 employees, Kueppers said. But parishes and schools must include part-time, temporary and seasonal employees in their total employee counts.
Employee numbers fluctuate and timing of any implementation is not known, so precisely how many parishes could be affected is not known, Kueppers said.
Priests, serving in parishes, are categorized as independent contractors and should not be included in the workplace totals, he said. And deacons, unless they receive compensation for work in a parish, would be considered volunteers and not included in the calculations, Kueppers said in the memo.
Parishes with parish schools should include all school staff as employees of the parish, Kueppers said. Parishes with separately incorporated Catholic schools on their campus, such as consolidated and regional schools, might under certain circumstances need to include school employees in their counts. But they should consult with his office first, Kueppers said. Charter schools on a parish campus would not count toward total employees, he said.
Parishes that are in a cluster with one pastor, with all of the clustered parishes combined having 100 or more employees, should consult with his office about ETS applicability, he said.
Parishes covered by the new rule would have to establish and implement a written policy addressing the ETS provisions, Kueppers said.
Kueppers’ memo also covered details on such topics as the cost of vaccinations and testing, the testing requirements, the definition of “fully vaccinated” and how parishes would determine the vaccine status of their employees.