Employers and employees react to President Biden’s vaccine mandate

Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 10:33 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - On Thursday, President Biden announced sweeping new COVID-19 vaccine mandates that will extend to the public sector. The new policies will affect roughly 80 million Americans.

“The bottom line — we’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated coworkers,” the President said.

The President said the Department of Labor is issuing an emergency rule that will require all businesses with 100 or more employees to require their entire staff to either be fully vaccinated or show a negative COVID test at least once a week. This is also mandatory now for all healthcare facilities. The President said companies that don’t comply could face fines of up to $14,000 per violation.

“That’s nearly 80 million Americans not vaccinated,” the President said. “In a country as large as ours, that’s 25% minority. That 25% can cause a lot of damage, and they are.”

19 News asked some people on the street what they thought about the mandate.

“I think it’s a big ask,” said Catherine Purdy. “I mean, I haven’t really had much time to think about it, but it just seems like something that a lot of people aren’t gonna be in favor for.”

“I think it’s a necessary step to really get the country to moving where it needs to go,” said Tom Conrad. “I think we’re never gonna get over the hump battling this pandemic until more people get vaccinated, so if it takes a mandate from the president to do that then I think it’s a good thing.”

When it comes to the weekly COVID tests – the president said employers could choose to pass the cost on to their employees.

“That doesn’t seem very fair at all no, it seems like something that the company should have to either pay for or that insurance would pay for,” said Purdy.

The vaccine requirements also extend to all health care providers that accept Medicare and Medicaid. If healthcare facilities refuse, they’ll lose public funding.

University Hospitals and Cleveland Clinic are the two largest employers in Cleveland, and right now, neither one requires employees to be vaccinated.

UH sent 19 News a statement that said, “Until we have a chance to review the rules the President referenced in his address this evening, we can’t comment on the specific requirements, but believe that getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways people can protect themselves, the people they care about, and their communities from COVID-19.”

The Clinic told us they are awaiting more information and plan to comply with federal requirements. They also added that nearly 80% of their caregivers are already vaccinated.

19 News also reached out to Giant Eagle, another of the larger employers in Ohio. A spokesperson told us they were unavailable for an interview, but they are committed to following all federal, state, and local mandates as they have throughout the pandemic.

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