Breaking Down the Biden Vaccine Mandate
The Biden administration yesterday set Jan. 4 as the deadline for large companies to mandate coronavirus vaccinations or start weekly testing for their workers. The rule is expected to cover 84 million workers, roughly 31 million of whom are unvaccinated.
It is the most far-reaching and potentially controversial measure in the government’s efforts to fight the pandemic. “While I would have much preferred that requirements not become necessary, too many people remain unvaccinated for us to get out of this pandemic for good,” President Biden said.
How will it work in practice? Many questions remain, on everything from enforcement to exemptions. Go here for answers to frequently asked questions about what the mandate means for companies and workers. You can also submit more questions for us to consider — we’ve been updating the article frequently. Here are the high-level details:
The timing. Setting an early January deadline gives retailers and logistics companies, which are strapped for employees, time to get through the holiday shopping season before instituting the requirements. But the National Retail Federation was still sharply critical of the move. “The Biden administration has chosen to declare an ‘emergency’ and impose burdensome new requirements on retailers during the crucial holiday shopping season,” it said.
The requirements. Workers are considered fully vaccinated if they have received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson shot. Companies can verify a worker’s status by requesting either a vaccination card or proof from a medical provider. Regulators will allow exceptions, though the government estimates that 1 percent of workers who remain hesitant have a medical reason and 4 percent have a religious objection. Companies with significantly higher shares could attract scrutiny.
The testing. For those who don’t get vaccinated, employers are not required to pay for or provide tests, though some may still be compelled to do so by other laws or agreements with unions. Forcing unvaccinated employees to pay for their own tests, the rule notes, “will provide a financial incentive for some employees to be fully vaccinated.”
The enforcement. Companies that fail to comply may be fined. An OSHA penalty is typically $13,653 for every serious violation, but can be up to 10 times that amount if the regulator determines that the violation is willful or repeated.
What about remote workers? Do workers with prior infections have to comply? What constitutes a sincerely held religious belief? Get the answers here.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
The Biden administration rebukes OPEC+ over oil production. As expected, the oil cartel yesterday declined to pump more oil, despite pressure from America. A White House official said the move risked the global recovery, and that the U.S. was prepared to move to lower prices.
Peloton’s pandemic-driven good fortune runs out. Shares in the home exercise company tumbled after it cut forecasts for sales and subscribers, and missed analysts’ revenue expectations. The lifting of pandemic restrictions has eroded a sales boom for Peloton while bolstering traditional gym companies like Planet Fitness.
Uber shows signs of recovery, amid huge losses. While the company reported a $2.4 billion loss for the third quarter, largely because of investments in China, revenue beat forecasts thanks to growth in rides and food delivery. Uber also said it was its first profitable quarter, excluding various items, which The Times’s Shira Ovide noted required a fair amount of rationalization.
Facebook faces a new antitrust lawsuit. The founders of a now-defunct photo app claim in their suit that Facebook feigned interest in a partnership deal to quash a competitor, adding to the tech giant’s legal woes.
Jeff Bezos loses to Elon Musk in a $2.9 billion contract battle. A federal judge rejected a lawsuit by Bezos’s Blue Origin over NASA awarding a moon lander contract to Musk’s SpaceX, which threatened to delay the space agency’s plans. Musk, unsurprisingly, gloated on Twitter.
What to watch for in the jobs report
This morning, the government will report how many workers companies added to U.S. payrolls in October. Economists predict that hiring picked up last month after a disappointing September. The question is whether the economy emerged from a surge in coronavirus cases as strong as it went in, or whether an October rebound is just catching up for a few months of virus-driven weakness. Here’s how to interpret the results:
► Overall job gains
What to expect: The consensus is for an October gain of 450,000 jobs. A number over 400,000 would double the gains of September. More than 650,000 would mark a return to the pace of hiring before the Delta variant hit.
What to watch for: If it’s just a bounce back linked to coronavirus cases, most of the gains will be among hotels and restaurants. The best read of the broader economy will come from sectors like professional services, where the trends in virus cases have less of an effect.
► Labor force participation
What to expect: Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, forecasts a rise of 250,000 people joining the work force (either by getting a job or starting the search for one). That would show optimism that the economy is drawing people back who gave up seeking work.
What to watch for: Women. In September, 300,000 women left the work force, while 100,000 men joined it. Coronavirus cases and child care is the assumed issue keeping women out of the labor force. October will tell.
► Wage growth
What to expect: Average wages are expected to rise nearly 5 percent in October versus a year ago. On a monthly basis, that would be a bit slower than in September.
What to watch for: Those worried about inflation may be heartened if wage growth shows signs of easing. But others worry that could just be a sign that the economy is producing more lower-wage jobs, which is better than no jobs, but not necessarily something to cheer.
“Unfortunately, I’ve learned in my first six months here that there are all too many fraudsters, penny stock scammers, Ponzi scheme architects, and pump-and-dump cons taking advantage of investors.”
— Gary Gensler, the S.E.C. chair, on his initial impressions after taking over at the securities regulator.
When red flags don’t stop big deals
The fraud trial of Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos, has laid bare many things, including how her blood-testing company’s claims fell far short of what was promised. And as The Times’s Erin Griffith reports, the trial has also revealed how careless investors were in chasing the opportunity to get a piece of the action.
Due diligence often took a back seat, even for sophisticated executives. Some examples:
Wade Miquelon, the former C.F.O. of Walgreens, admitted he didn’t know whether the company had tested any Theranos devices before striking up a partnership.
Lisa Peterson, a representative for the billion-dollar DeVos family, conceded that she didn’t visit Theranos testing centers or speak to outside experts before investing $100 million.
Christopher Lucas of Black Diamond Ventures said that he didn’t examine Theranos’s financial records before investing $7 million, accepting Holmes’s argument that doing so would risk a leak that could help rivals.
“If we did too much, we wouldn’t be invited back to invest,” Peterson testified, underscoring the mania for investors to buy into the next big thing at all costs. This lax attitude on due diligence has become too prevalent in venture capital, one investor told Erin, warning: “If something happens to the economy, then everyone is going to be toast.”
NYC ❤️ BTC
The next mayor of New York City, Eric Adams, is competing with the newly re-elected mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, to attract cryptocurrency businesses by pledging allegiance to Bitcoin. This mirrors the broader rivalry between the cities to attract finance and tech businesses, with Miami drawing many firms away from New York during the pandemic.
Adams said that he would take his first three paychecks as mayor in Bitcoin, tweeting in response to Suarez, who had pledged to take his next paycheck in the cryptocurrency. “NYC is going to be the center of the cryptocurrency industry and other fast-growing, innovative industries,” Adams wrote. “I look forward to the friendly competition in making our respective cities a crypto capital,” Suarez wrote back.
Responses were mixed:
“We’re doomed” said Paul Krugman, the Nobel-winning economist and Times Opinion columnist, who has criticized the “technobabble” of crypto supporters.
Bitcoin “is hope for New York,” said Michael Saylor, the C.E.O. of MicroStrategy, the software company that holds well over $6 billion worth of Bitcoin on its balance sheet.
“There’s the symbolic element and the practical element,” Sina Kian, who heads strategy at the private blockchain platform Aleo, told DealBook. Adams’s willingness to engage with crypto is something that Kian believes more policymakers should have, but the practicalities of getting paid in crypto are unclear.
Is that even possible? Neither Adams’s campaign nor the New York City’s mayor’s office responded to requests for comment on the feasibility of paying the mayor in Bitcoin. Suarez proposed that Miami offer a Bitcoin option for municipal salaries and paying taxes early this year, but is still working on a legal framework.
THE SPEED READ
SoftBank is reportedly under pressure from investors like Elliott to return more cash to shareholders. (FT)
Over a third of the junior analysts at Goldman Sachs who created a high-profile presentation demanding better treatment have left the bank. (New York)
Lions Gate Entertainment is weighing the sale of its Starz premium-cable channel. (WSJ)
The Biden administration cut ties with Emergent BioSolutions, the manufacturer that ruined millions of coronavirus vaccine doses. (NYT)
After his narrow re-election win, will Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey move to contain the state’s rising taxes? (NYT)
In electric vehicle company news: Nikola is close to settling an S.E.C. investigation for $125 million, while a former Rivian executive sued the company for unlawfully retaliating against her complaint of gender discrimination. (FT)
Best of the rest
“With Climate Pledges, Some Wall Street Titans Warn of Rising Prices” (NYT)
The N.B.A. and W.N.B.A. are investigating Robert Sarver, the owner of Phoenix’s pro basketball teams, over accusations of racist, sexist and other inappropriate behavior. (NYT, ESPN)
Shares in Penn National Gaming tumbled after weak earnings and sexual misconduct allegations against David Portnoy, the founder of its Barstool Sports division. (Insider)
A difficulty speaking French has proved a major headache for the new C.E.O. of Air Canada. (Bloomberg)
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