Business officials divided over Biden’s COVID-19 vaccination mandates
Space Coast hotel owner Bob Baugher said he welcomed Thursday’s White House announcement that all businesses with 100 or more employees will be required to ensure their employees are vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly COVID-19 tests, as a way to help end the pandemic.
“I want everyone to be vaccinated, and I want this thing to stop,” said Baugher, who owns or co-owns four hotels in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral, as well as retail businesses, supply, transportation and construction.
Baugher has offered his employees bonuses of $ 150 if they get vaccinated, but only 45 to 50% of the 296 people he pays have.
Baugher estimates that the tourism-related downturn caused by the pandemic has cost his businesses $ 30 million in sales, adding, “I don’t want to lose another $ 10 million in sales” if the pandemic continues.
Like many business owners, Baugher is awaiting details on the implementation of President Joe Biden’s multi-faceted initiative to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates in the United States.
Biden said the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration would issue an “emergency temporary standard” that would require employers with 100 or more workers to require the vaccine or perform weekly tests on unvaccinated employees.
The administration will also require those employers to grant paid time off to allow workers to get vaccinated – or to recover if they are sick after the gunshot.
Biden based his initiative on what the administration claims is OSHA’s power to issue standards when “workers are in serious danger” of exposure to toxic substances or agents or new hazards until that a more permanent standard be developed.
The vaccination mandate covers all private employers with at least 100 employees, which means that it will generally apply to corporations and other large businesses. In total, more than 80 million workers are affected.
Businesses that do not comply can face fines of up to $ 14,000.
Baugher said it was time for the public to listen to medical experts on the importance of vaccinations – and ignore the random negative rumors about the vaccine posted on Facebook.
“It’s a real crisis,” Baugher said. “We have to get everyone to cross the finish line.”
But not all local employers are won over by the mandate.
Bruce Deardoff, president of Merritt Island-based automobile group Deardoff, said he supports the vaccine and encourages its employees to get the vaccine. But he thinks the Biden administration’s mandates go too far.
“I think forcing people to get tested every week ‘if they’re not vaccinated’ is pretty overkill,” Deardoff said.
He said it was difficult to recruit good employees and feared the tenure might cause some people to leave the company.
Deardoff operates five car dealerships in Florida with a total of 350 employees, and has encouraged employees to get vaccinated. This helped improve the vaccination rate in his business from about 50% to about 80%.
But Deardoff noted that “some people are just adamant about not getting the vaccine. I just think it must be a personal choice.”
Employers preparing for the mandate
Jim Burke, spokesperson for Melbourne-based L3Harris Technologies Inc., said the aerospace and defense technology company “is reviewing the administration’s new mandate to fully understand what it means for our workforce. American “.
L3Harris has a total workforce of approximately 47,000 people worldwide, including approximately 41,300 in the United States and 7,750 in Brevard County, making it one of the county’s three largest employers, along with Brevard Public Schools and Health First.
“Once this review is complete, we will determine what changes are needed and modify our policies accordingly to comply,” said Burke. “We have applied many layers of safety in our facilities and will continue to strongly encourage all employees to get vaccinated as soon as possible. “
Burke said L3Harris does not have vaccination rates for its employees.
Northrop Grumman Corp. spokeswoman Christine Denton released a statement Friday, saying “The health, safety and well-being of our employees is our top priority. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and federal, state and local guidance, while meeting our commitments to our customers. “
Northrop Grumman – which has space, aeronautical, defense and cyberspace operations – employs more than 90,000 people worldwide, including more than 4,700 in Melbourne.
Immunization rates need to be increased
So far, vaccination rates in Florida and Brevard County have not reached levels high enough that the medical community deems necessary to stop the spread of the coronavirus, especially with the prevalence of the spreading delta variant. fast.
As of September 2, 351,791 residents of Brevard had been vaccinated, representing 65% of the population aged 12 and over eligible for vaccination, and 58% of the overall population of Brevard.
These numbers are lower than the statewide vaccination figures of 69% of the Florida population aged 12 and over and 60% of the overall Florida population.
Maria Stahl, administrator of the Florida Department of Health at Brevard, said “We cannot stress enough the importance of vaccinations. Vaccinations – as we have heard over and over again – are going to get us out of this. It’s not going to go away until we have enough people vaccinated. It really is that simple that people need to get vaccinated. And that’s the # 1 way to break this transmission – get vaccinated. “
During the county’s weekly Facebook Live update on COVID-19 on Friday, Brevard County Emergency Management Director John Scott reiterated that getting the shot is the most important thing people can do to stop the spread of the virus.
“Please, please help us end the transmission cycle,” Scott urged viewers of the briefing.
Scott said the more time there was with lower vaccination rates, the more possibilities there was for the COVID-19 variants to develop and spread.
“What we can control from a community perspective is that we increase our vaccination rates, the higher they are the lower our risk regardless of the next variant,” Scott said. “We therefore cannot stress enough the importance of getting vaccinated.”
The Moderna two-dose vaccine and the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine are available for ages 18 and up. The two-dose Pfizer vaccine is available for people 12 years of age and older.
Vaccines are widely available, especially at Department of Health sites in Melbourne, Titusville and Viera; emergency care centers; private medical practices; facilities managed by hospitals; and pharmacies in various CVS, Publix, Sam’s Club, Walgreens, Walmart and Winn-Dixie stores.
“There are many opportunities and many vaccine stocks in Brevard County for getting vaccinated,” said Brevard County communications director Don Walker.
The site https://www.211brevard.org/covid-19-vaccines-in-brevard-county/ contains a list of medical establishments and companies offering vaccines. Some of these sites require reservations, while others allow walk-in tours.
Other parts of the mandate
Small private businesses with less than 100 employees are not included in the mandate.
However, Biden also issued vaccination warrants for other workers.
They include most federal government employees; the 17 million nursing home and hospital workers who receive Medicare and Medicaid funds; and federal Head Start and Early Head Start program staff.
In total, Biden said the mandates covered about 100 million Americans, or two-thirds of the American workforce.
Health First spokesperson Lance Skelly noted that his company – which has approximately 9,000 employees – on August 2 announced a COVID-19 vaccination requirement as a condition of employment once the Food and Drug Administration of United States has granted full approval of one or more of the vaccines. On August 23, the FDA granted full approval of the Pfizer vaccine for people 16 years of age and older. The Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines remain under what is called “emergency use authorization” status, as does the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15 year olds.
Skelly said the Biden administration’s newly announced vaccine initiative “aligns with this requirement. Based on our initial review of a memo from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, it appears that the Biden-Harris administration will require immunization for health systems as a condition for receiving Medicare and Medicaid payments. “
Skelly said Health First – which operates four hospitals and various other medical facilities in Brevard – has yet to set a timeline for Health First staff to comply with that mandate.
According to data from the Department of Health, there have been 72,518 cases of COVID-19 in Brevard, representing 12% of the county’s population. There have been 3,308,916 cases of COVID-19 statewide, representing 15% of Florida’s population.
There have been 1,322 COVID-19-related deaths in Brevard and 46,324 statewide.
United States today contributed to this story.
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