Okanogan County Seal

OKANOGAN COUNTY – As an employer, Okanogan County appears to fall under Biden’s Federal "vaccine" mandate for employers of more than 100 workers, via an OSHA emergency rule that is due for full implementation on January 4th, 2022. Okanogan County had just over 400 employees in 2020.

Normally, Federal OSHA rules do not apply to state and local governments, however, in this case they are applicable. Washington State is one of the 26 states that participate in OSHA-approved workplace safety and health programs for both private and government employers and submit “state plans” to the agency. These states with OSHA-approved state plans have 15 days from the published date of Nov 5th, to notify OSHA of how they plan to comply with the ETS (emergency temporary standard) and 30 days to update their plans to to be at least comparable to the Federal rules. The Inslee administration could certainly implement stricter requirements in the WA state plan that exceed the Federal minimums.

The OSHA ETS requires that workers be vaccinated by January 4, 2022, or face weekly tests and mask requirements. The expected fines for violations of the rule are up to $14,000 per violation. It appears that utilizing informers will be critical to enforcement of the order, as the agency only has 1,850 inspectors covering 8 million workplaces nationwide, so spot checks will be very limited.

Last Saturday, a federal appeals court temporarily halted the Biden administration's emergency order. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted an emergency stay of the requirement Saturday after a number of states and private companies filed an emergency motion. The panel of judges agreed that the mandate raised "grave statutory and constitutional issues" and put the rule on hold pending further litigation.

If the Biden mandate is permitted to continue by the courts, it appears that county taxpayers will get services of overall poorer quality, for their tax dollars. It’s possible that the OSHA requirement could also be made stricter, such as by removing the testing option. In any case, the Biden mandate will contribute significantly to making it much harder for the county to attract and retain workers. And like the fallout for Inslee’s state-wide "vaccine" mandates, this will ensure poor quality government services for years to come.

It appears that other municipalities within the county are not large enough employers to fall under the Federal rules. The City of Omak, the largest city in the county, has 39 employees, which rises to 72 employees if their firefighter volunteers are counted as such, is still well under the 100 employee threshold.

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