Duke University has announced that it will require all faculty and staff to get a Covid-19 booster shot before the start of February or 28 days after they are eligible.

Any employee who fails to provide proof of a booster or apply for an exemption will be placed on administrative leave. If employees do not get booster-jabed within a week of their leave, they will be fired.

The policy is the strictest of the North Carolina colleges, with North Carolina State and UNC Chapel Hill requiring tests for staff and students returning to classes in January but not requiring vaccines or boosters.

Duke, an Ivy League school, joins a raft of elite colleges which are pressing ahead with booster requirements, including Harvard, Yale, Notre Dame, Dartmouth, Columbia, Brown, Cornell and Syracuse.

It comes amid soaring cases of the rapidly spreading Omicron variant – with the US setting a record with a seven-day average of 254,496 cases reported on Tuesday as infections doubled on two weeks ago.

The famous Duke University gothic chapel in Durham, North Carolina

The famous Duke University gothic chapel in Durham, North Carolina

The famous Duke University gothic chapel in Durham, North Carolina

The country’s previous record was about 251,989 daily cases, reported on January 11.

Universities are following CDC guidance which states hat the best protection against the new strain is a booster shot.

Dr Anthony Fauci said earlier this month that a booster shot increased antibody levels by more than 20 times when tested in a laboratory.

However, growing evidence that the new strain of the disease is milder is making the debate around vaccine mandates increasingly heated. 

A federal appeals court on December 18 reinstated Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for private firms with more than 100 employees.

It means the battle will now move to the Supreme Court as various states rail against the rule from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that was to take effect next week. 

The vaccine requirement would apply to companies with 100 or more employees and would cover about 84 million workers. 

Employees who are not fully vaccinated would have to wear masks and be subject to weekly tests. There would be exceptions for those who work outdoors or only at home.  

Republican-led states joined with conservative groups, business associations and some individual businesses to push back against the requirement as soon as OSHA published the rules in early November. 

They argued that OSHA was not authorized to make the emergency rule.

The mandate had been blocked for now in 24 states – 14 involved in a case reviewed by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans and 10 where it was halted by a Nov. 29 ruling by a federal judge in St. Louis. 

Biden unveiled in September regulations to increase the adult vaccination rate as a way of fighting the pandemic, which has killed more than 800,000 Americans and weighed on the economy. 

Companies such as United Airlines have used mandates to increase the number of vaccinated employees, often with only a small number of workers refusing the shots.

However, as recently as Friday, several companies had decided to suspend vaccination requirements – including Boeing, Amtrak, Spirit AeroSystems and General Electric. 

Republicans, conservative groups and trade organizations sued over the OSHA rule, arguing the agency overstepped its authority.

The rule set a January 4 deadline for compliance, although it unclear if that will be enforced because the rule was blocked for weeks. 

Companies across the country impose vaccine mandates for workers – and even visitors

AT&T – All employees must be vaccinated

Alaska Airlines – All US-based employees had to be vaccinated by Dec 8 and the airline offered a $200 incentive to get the shots

American Airlines – All US-based employees must be vaccinated by Jan 4 or face termination 

American Express – Employees and company visitors at US offices had to be fully vaccinated by Nov 18 although remote work remained optional. When AmEx fully reopens its offices on Jan 24, all workers are expected to be vaccinated and there will not be a mandatory Covid-testing program. 

Ascension Health – All employees had to be vaccinated by Nov 12, including those working remotely

Capital One – All employees had to be vaccinated before returning to work after offices reopened on Nov 2. Employees working from home could choose to remain unvaccinated and were ‘supported in doing do,’ as stated in a company announcement

Centene Corporation – All employees must provide proof of vaccination or undergo regular Covid-19 testing and wear masks at all times in the office

Chevron – Expatriate employees, workers traveling internationally, and employees on US-flagged ships must be vaccinated. Offshore workers in the Gulf of Mexico must be vaccinated by Nov 1

Cisco – All office workers must be vaccinated 

Citigroup – All employees working in major cities had to be vaccinated by Sept 13

CNN – All employees must be vaccinated and three have already been fired for violating the policy

CVS – Pharmacists had to be vaccinated by Nov 30 and corporate workers had to be vaccinated by Oct 31, with exemptions for medical and religious reasons

Deloitte – All employees had to be vaccinated by Oct 11

Delta Air Lines – All employees must be vaccinated or pay an additional $200 per month for their company-sponsored healthcare plan

Disney – Disney announced that cast members must be fully vaccinated by Oct 22 but in November retracted the mandate after Florida Gov Ron DeSantis signed a law prohibiting companies from forcing vaccines on workers

DoorDash – All corporate employees working in person must be vaccinated

Envision Healthcare – All employees must be vaccinated by Nov 1 despite medical and religious exemptions

Equinox – New York City employees and members must be vaccinated beginning in September

Facebook – All US office workers must be vaccinated but employees will not be required to work in person until January 2022

Ford – All employees who travel for international business must be vaccinated and a mask mandate was reinstated at all facilities on Aug 3

Frontier Airlines – All employees must be vaccinated by Oct 1 or undergo weekly Covid-19 testing

General Electric – As of December the vaccine mandate has been suspended in response to a US District Court judge’s decision to issue a preliminary injunction on President Biden’s order demanding all federal contractors be vaccinated by Jan 18

Gilead Sciences – All US employees and contractors must be vaccinated by Oct 1 unless exempt for medical and religious reasons

Goldman Sachs – All office staff and visitors must be vaccinated and will be subjected to regular Covid-19 testing starting September 7, with no exemptions

Google – All office workers must be vaccinated

Hawaii Airlines – All employees must be vaccinated by Nov 1, but could apply for medical or religious exemptions and instead undergo regular Covid-19 testing

Hess – Employees who work in the Gulf of Mexico must be vaccinated by Nov 1

IBM – All US employees had to be vaccinated by Dec 8 – unless exemptions for medical or religious reasons – or face unpaid suspensions 

JetBlue Airways – All US employees had to be vaccinated by Jan 4 unless exempt for medical or religious reasons

Johnson and Johnson – All US employees must be vaccinated by Oct 4 unless exempt for medical or religious reason

Lyft – All office workers must be vaccinated

McDonald’s – All US employees, excluding those at corporate or franchise restaurants, must be vaccinated by Oct 11

MGM Resorts – Salaried office employees must be vaccinated by Oct 15 and new office employees must be vaccinated starting Aug 30. Las Vegas employees must undergo regular Covid-19 testing

Microsoft – All office workers and guests must be vaccinated by Oct 4

Moderna – All US employees must be vaccinated by October

Morgan Stanley – All employees must be vaccinated by Oct 1

Netflix – Anyone working in or visiting the company’s offices must be vaccinated

Northwestern Mutual – All office workers must be vaccinated with exemptions for medical or religious reason

Norwegian Cruise Line – All crew and passengers must be vaccinated at least two weeks before boarding

Pfizer – All US employees and contractors must be vaccinated or undergo weekly Covid-19 testing

Politico – All employees must be vaccinated

Saks Fifth Avenue – All office employees must be vaccinated

Salesforce – All office workers must be vaccinated

The New York Times – All office workers must be vaccinated

The Washington Post – All employees must be vaccinated by Sept 13

TJX – Only Home and Regional Office Associates must be vaccinated by Nov 1 with medical and religious exemptions

Twitter – All office workers in San Francisco and New York must be vaccinated

Tyson Foods – All US employees must be vaccinated by Oct 1 and other staffers by Nov 1 with medical and religious exemptions

Uber – All office workers must be vaccinated

United Airlines – All US employees must be vaccinated by Oct 25 with medical and religious exemptions

UPS – All headquarters and office building employees must be vaccinated by Oct 1

Walgreens – All workers in support offices must be vaccinated by Sept 30 or undergo weekly Covid-19 testing

Walmart – All staff at its headquarters and managers traveling within the US must be vaccinated by Oct 4, with medical and religious exemptions 

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