Republican politicians are huffing and puffing about President Biden’s mandate that workers at private businesses with 100 or more employees either ge
Republican politicians are huffing and puffing about President Biden’s mandate that workers at private businesses with 100 or more employees either get vaccinated or get covid tests.
“We will fight them to the gates of hell,” South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas called it an “assault on private businesses.”
But most trade groups aren’t joining in, for one obvious reason: Generally speaking, this is good for them. Which is why some of the biggest companies have required vaccination already, as Biden pointed out last week: United Airlines, Disney, Tyson Foods – “even Fox News.”
The head of New Jersey’s Chamber of Commerce, Tom Bracken, lauded Biden’s policy on Monday. “I applaud him for that,” he said. “I think enhancing the pace of vaccinations is very good for the citizens of New Jersey and the business community of New Jersey.”
Joshua Bolten, who represents chief executives from some of the largest U.S. companies, including Chevron, Caterpillar and Citigroup, expressed the same sentiment: “America’s business leaders know how critical vaccination and testing are.”
This is the ultimate antidote to more suffering and shutdowns, as Bracken argues: Vaccination is key to controlling the threat from the more contagious Delta variant, which is killing more than 1,500 Americans a day. If we continue to allow this virus to spread rampantly, even more dangerous variants could emerge.
Biden’s mandate comes better late than never. It affects about 100 million Americans, two thirds of all workers, including those in health care settings. That’s big. But even so, Bracken notes, most New Jersey businesses have fewer than 100 employees and won’t be subject to it.
Some, like the restaurant It’s Greek to Me in Ridgewood, already voluntarily require vaccination. The more that do this, the better off we all are, so let’s do what we can to support them.
Meanwhile, the majority of sensible Americans are moving past the debates over vaccine mandates to the question of implementation. Biden leaves this up to employers, who can require employees to pick up the bill for testing. Doctors typically charge about $50 to $100 for COVID tests, and when you get them weekly, that racks up quickly. So, what should businesses do?
“I am in their shoes,” Bracken points out. “And we’ve made the decision that all of our employees have to be vaccinated and all of our events are vaccination events – with, obviously, the opt-out of testing, if that’s appropriate.”
Who pays for that? “We’re not dictating,” he said. “If you want to attend our event, you have to be vaccinated or show proof of a negative test. How it’s paid for, I don’t know.”
Delta Airlines may provide a clue. Starting Sept. 30, only vaccinated employees will be granted paid time off for COVID. The unvaccinated will have to use sick days and be charged $200 a month in the form of higher health insurance premiums, to help cover the cost.
“The average hospital stay for COVID-19 has cost Delta $50,000 per person,” its CEO, Ed Bastian, notes. “This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company.”
Michele Siekerka, head of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, is calling on the government to send a clear message that anyone who quits their job over Biden’s mandate will be ineligible for unemployment insurance. “We don’t want people to use this as an excuse to go on unemployment,” she said.
The White House is promising to provide more guidance by Sept. 24, and reasonable people can disagree about the details. Yet as the president has said to those who’ve failed to get the shot, “We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us.” For businesses, that also comes down to dollars and cents.
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