The COVID-19 pandemic has put business leaders in the challenging and unenviable position of making decisions about how to best support
employees and the community at large as we navigate through the seemingly arbitrary and ever-changing business, regulatory, and public health landscape.
Our local health care facilities are the site of protests against vaccination mandates most days and may lose employees who refuse to get the shot. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will be issuing Final Interim Rules around the vaccine mandate in October but even today any health care facility or other business that accepts Medicare and Medicaid must mandate their employees get the vaccine with a small window for exemptions related to medical or religious reasons. With workforce shortages already an issue, this creates a very real challenge for the leaders of our healthcare organizations, even though they are strongly in support of improving our local vaccination rates. Healthcare organizations on the Front Range have already begun to reduce services, close group care facilities, and stop taking patients, all due to labor shortages that have come about during the pandemic and are now exacerbated by the clash between vaccine mandates and employees who do not want to be vaccinated.
Regardless of your opinion and understanding of the vaccine, your business might be faced with the same challe
nges soon. On September 9th, President Biden directed OSHA to develop an emergency temporary standard for mandating vaccinations in businesses with 100 or more employees, which will become effective in a few short weeks. Nationwide this will affect 80 million workers and over 110,000 businesses. This puts many in the business community squarely in the middle of this vaccine fight. OSHA could fine businesses up to $36,000 a day if they don’t comply. Customers and employees are screaming – some for us to resist the mandates and others for us to support the efforts to increase vaccination rates. Just when you thought the business impacts of this terrible pandemic could not get any worse, we find ourselves deeply embroiled in yet another issue we never imagined we would have to navigate.
Please know that you do not have to face this situation alone. As a Chamber, we are committed to supporting businesses and job creators. Just as we have throughout the last eighteen months, we will continue to provide resources, timely information and interactive webinars where your questions can be answered in order to be in compliance with various state and federal rules – whether it’s the latest on vaccination requirements or how to be in compliance with the new Equal Pay for Equal Work and Paid Family Leave regulations. Beyond providing you with information, we will also be your advocate and ardent supporter within the community – telling your customers and your employees why you must comply with these rules. And, if there are other ways that we can support businesses, either individually or collectively, please reach out to us. The major message of this column is that this Chamber board, staff and entire organization stands squarely behind you, our local businesses.