Dear Colleagues –To date, the MBL has successfully run our research and training programs without an on-campus transmission of COVID-19 and that is thanks to the efforts of all of you, our dedicated staff. We have implemented policies and procedures as needed to ensure that we keep our employees and the MBL community as safe as possible and we continue to assess and modify those policies and procedures as the pandemic evolves. Today we write to inform you of a change in our policy brought about by new federal contracting requirements. On September 9, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order 14042, which requires employees of organizations that hold certain federal contracts to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Following a careful review of the order with legal experts, we have determined that the MBL is subject to this order because of federal contracts that we hold. Due to the scope of the president’s order, all MBL employees must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 18, 2022, unless they have an approved religious or medical exemption. The MBL is just one of many institutions around the country, including neighboring Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who are faced with this requirement. Our compliance with the executive order is necessary to ensure that we do not risk losing federal contract dollars that support our research and education mission. Under this updated policy, employees will no longer be permitted to elect testing as an alternative to vaccination. After January 18, anyone who is not in compliance, either by being vaccinated or receiving an approved exemption, will be subject to disciplinary action consistent with the MBL’s policies. If you are one of the 97% of MBL employees who is already fully vaccinated, this executive order does not affect you. For the remaining employees who are not yet fully vaccinated, Human Resources will be reaching out confidentially with additional information about how to comply with this updated vaccine requirement and how to request a vaccination exemption request due to a medical condition or a sincerely held religious belief.
The executive order lays out specific requirements as well as oversight of these requirements.
- Vaccination: All employees of “covered contractors” must be fully vaccinated by January 18, 2022, unless they have an approved exemption. Compliance with the executive order means that MBL will institute a vaccine exemption process and weekly testing will no longer be an approved alternative to vaccination for those without an approved exemption. The order applies to all MBL employees: full- and part-time as well as temporary, and all new employees. It also applies to paid interns.
- Masking: MBL must follow CDC’s indoor masking guidance which states that masks be worn indoors—even by those who are fully vaccinated—in public areas of “substantial and/or high” COVID-19 transmission. Barnstable County, where the MBL is located, is an area with a currently “high” level of community transmission of COVID-19, according to the most recent CDC data. While this does not change MBL’s current masking policy, it does mean that we do not have any discretion as an institution about indoor masking if Barnstable County is at a “substantial or high” level of transmission.
We understand that this federal vaccine mandate changes the approach the MBL must take regarding unvaccinated employees, and we recognize that the new requirements associated with the executive order will be unsettling for unvaccinated employees and their families. Just as we have navigated the pandemic to date, we will work through this policy change in the coming weeks. We continue to be committed to supporting all our employees.
Paul Speer, Chief Operating Officer