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US mandates COVID vaccines or tests for big companies by January 4

In this Aug. 28, 2021, file photo, registered nurse, Noleen Nobleza, center, inoculates Julio Quinones with a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic set up in the parking lot of CalOptima in Orange, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
In this Aug. 28, 2021, file photo, registered nurse, Noleen Nobleza, center, inoculates Julio Quinones with a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic set up in the parking lot of CalOptima in Orange, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Tens of millions of Americans who work at companies with 100 or more employees will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 4 or be tested for the virus weekly under new government rules issued today.

The new requirements will apply to about 84 million workers at medium and large businesses, although it is not clear how many of those employees are unvaccinated. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations will force the companies to require that unvaccinated workers test negative for COVID-19 at least once a week and wear a mask while in the workplace.

Tougher rules will apply to another 17 million people who work in nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities that receive money from Medicare and Medicaid. Those workers will not have an option for testing — they will need to be vaccinated.

Workers will be able to ask for exemptions on medical or religious grounds.

OSHA said companies that fail to comply with the regulations could face penalties of nearly $14,000 per violation.

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