Large U.S. companies will no longer have to decide whether to require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. It is now federal policy.
President Joe Biden has announced sweeping new orders that will force employers of more than 100 workers to force vaccinations or offer weekly testing. The new rules could affect up to 100 million Americans, although it is not clear how many of those people are currently unvaccinated.
The president’s announcement drew immediate reprimands from Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt and other Republican leaders who oppose federal interference in state affairs and the daily lives of residents of the Oklahoma.
“Once again, President Biden demonstrates his utter disregard for individual freedoms and the rights of states,” Stitt said in a press release. “It is not the role of government to dictate to private companies what to do. As long as I’m governor, there will be no government mandate for vaccines in Oklahoma. My administration will continue to stand up for Oklahoma values and fight the federal excess of the Biden administration. “
In separate statements, Oklahoma House President Charles McCall, R-Atoka, and Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, also lambasted Biden.
“President Biden is about to see that the US Constitution is still valid in Oklahoma,” McCall said. “Our country is a republic of states, not a monarchy.”
Treat said the state will fight to protect employers from federal government excesses.
“Vaccines are safe and effective, but it should be a choice for each of us to decide whether to get vaccinated,” he said. “A federal mandate is a terrible way to convince more people to get vaccinated, and I’m disappointed that the president is choosing that route rather than working alongside state and local authorities, and private companies, to deal more with the this health care crisis. “
As GOP leaders criticized Biden, Oklahoma House Minority Leader Emily Virgin D-Norman said Republicans themselves should bear much of the blame for the current coronavirus crisis and the need for a vaccine mandate.
“Over the past several months, Governor Stitt and Republicans in the Legislature have remained silent on how to protect our children during this pandemic,” she said in a statement. “The governor and those same Republicans crippled local officials with Senate Bill 658, which deprived school boards and local governments of the ability to implement policy that protects children’s lives. As Republicans in Oklahoma and across the country continue to play political games, hundreds of thousands of Oklahomians have been infected with COVID, students and teachers have fallen seriously ill, and too many Oklahomians have died .
“I understand that no one likes a term, but if Republicans are to find someone to blame for the president’s actions, they should look in the mirror,” Virgin continued.
Large swathes of the private sector have already stepped in to impose gunfire on at least some of their employees. But Biden said Thursday that “many of us are frustrated by the nearly 80 million Americans who are not fully immunized.”
The United States is still struggling to curb the burgeoning delta variant of the coronavirus, which kills thousands of people every week and jeopardizes the country’s economic recovery.
According to Biden’s order, the millions of executive employees and contractors who do business with the federal government will not be able to get tested instead of taking the vaccine. The ordinance also obliges large companies to provide paid vacations for vaccination.
The Associated Press contacted a wide range of businesses on Thursday. Many did not have immediate responses while others noted that they already needed vaccinations. Walmart, the country’s largest private employer, was one of the first major companies to force vaccines on some of its employees. Walmart said in late July that it was demanding that all workers at its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, as well as its managers who travel to the United States, be vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 4.
But the vaccination mandate excluded frontline workers such as cashiers, who the company said have a lower vaccination rate than management.
CVS Health said in late August that it would require some employees who interact with patients to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of October. This includes nurses, care managers and pharmacists.
Airlines, meanwhile, have tried to reassure customers about flight safety during a pandemic and pushed for measures such as mandatory masking before they are required by the government.
United Airlines announced last month that it would require employees to be vaccinated. The airline said on Wednesday that workers who do not comply will be put on leave on October 2 and will be fired unless they can demonstrate a medical or religious reason for not getting the vaccine. The airline says more than half of its employees who were not vaccinated have been vaccinated since the company announced the requirement.
Other airlines have encouraged workers to get vaccinated but have not demanded it, although Delta Air Lines plans to hit unvaccinated workers from its health plan with a monthly supplement of $ 200 starting in November. Delta’s health director said the prospect of the fee had led about 20% of the airline’s unvaccinated workers to get vaccinated.
The tech industry has been largely at the forefront of vaccine requirements, making the industry in general a likely supporter of Biden’s policies on the issue. At the end of July, Google became one of the first large American employers to decide that all of its employees should be vaccinated before returning to the office. Facebook quickly adopted a similar policy hours after Google took its tough stand on vaccines.
Google has left the question open as to whether the minority of employees who will still be allowed to work remotely will need to get vaccinated to stay on their payroll. The Mountain View, Calif., Company employs more than 130,000 people worldwide, including a significant number based in the United States. The most significant concentrations are found in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York.
Apple, which employs both technicians in its offices and tens of thousands of workers in its retail stores around the world, has encouraged people to get vaccinated without announcing a formal mandate. The Cupertino, Calif., Company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Biden’s vaccine order.
General Motors did not approve of Biden’s demands, but said in a statement it supported vaccines.
“We strongly encourage our employees to get vaccinated given the wide availability of safe and highly effective vaccines, which data consistently shows is the best way to protect yourself and those around you,” said the automaker.
Half of American workers support workplace vaccine requirements, according to a poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Such warrants have already gained traction after full approval by the Food and Drug Administration of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are available under emergency authorization, but have not been officially approved.
About 59% of remote workers said they favor vaccine requirements at their own workplace, compared to 47% of those who currently work in person. About a quarter of workers – in person and remotely – said they were against it.
More than 177 million Americans are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, but confirmed cases of the virus have increased in recent weeks. They have now reached an average of around 140,000 cases per day. On average, about 1,000 Americans die from the virus each day, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.