Federal government announces vaccine mandate deadline and official guidelines

NOW: Federal government announces vaccine mandate deadline and official guidelines

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. -- President Biden's new COVID-19 plan aims to get millions of Americans vaccinated-- by encouraging business owners to do their part.

The announcement made earlier this week: business owners and employers will have to have their workforce vaccinated or tested on a weekly basis by January 4, 2022.

This comes after several private companies like Tyson Foods and United Airlines gave their employees the choice to be vaccinated or tested on a weekly basis-- in both cases, more than half of the unvaccinated employees opted to get the shot. 

Now, this mandate hopes to repeat that kind of success on a national scale-- but what does this mean for business owners in Michiana?

First off-- this requirement is only for businesses that employ one-hundred or more people. 

According to Jeff Rea of the South Bend Regional Chamber, “In St Joseph County there are 167 that would meet this criteria if you will: all local governments, schools, hospitals, universities, manufacturers, major retailers—all of them would really fall into this category.”

Though the number of employees is determined on a by-location basis: for example, if a chain restaurant or store employs less than one-hundred people, they will not be affected by the mandate, despite being owned by a company that may employ thousands. 

The guidelines were released to businesses today through OSHA-- 494 pages worth-- and Rea says businesses will have to comply:

“Businesses are gonna be doing the right thing and try to—they don’t get to decide which OSHA guidelines they wanna follow and what they don’t wanna follow, so they’re gonna be putting plans in place to be ready for this.”

Robin Vida, with the St. Joseph County Health Department, believes this will get people to get vaccinated. 

“I think this will improve numbers in St Joseph County faster than if we didn’t have such a mandate,” said Vida. 

But some business owners are worried that this mandate could cause them to lose workers in a time when there are already employee shortages.

Rea elaborated “Let’s say you have strong feelings about this: you don’t wanna be vaccinated, you leave your employer of 100 employees and you go across the street to one that has 95 employees and you don’t have to have the same requirement- that business is going through a different process, so it’s been a tough time trying to figure that out.”

Rea also said that businesses may have a tough time getting everything in place in time for the January 4 deadline.

“It’s all been a tightrope for businesses as they’re figuring out how to navigate all of these different things,” he said. 

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