SOUTHERN INDIANA – While much is still unclear about vaccine requirements or the regular COVID-19 testing announced last week by President Joe Biden, some businesses in southern Indiana have started to prepare by through campaigns to increase the number of employees now vaccinated.

The requirements, announced by the president on Sept. 9 at a press conference and followed by executive orders, mean that most federal employees, government contractors and healthcare workers will be required to be vaccinated against the COVID-19.

Biden also called on the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to draft an emergency temporary standard that would require personnel in private companies with 100 or more employees to be vaccinated or submitted. to weekly tests. Fines of $ 14,000 per incident may be imposed for non-compliance.

The changes are expected to impact approximately 80 million workers in the United States, including those working in manufacturing and large retailers in southern Indiana.

But before an official decision, which could come as soon as a few weeks after the announcement, some local employers are unsure who this will understand or how the violations will be enforced.

This includes the municipal governments of Clark and Floyd County, both of which employ more than 100 workers. Rick Fox, attorney for Floyd County Commissioners, said on Tuesday that he had not yet received anything from the state or federal government mandating anything to local government, and said he was not sure they are included.

Scott Lewis, who represents Clark County Commissioners, had a similar sentiment saying that local officials “were eagerly awaiting the actual order,” he said. “We’ve heard conflicting things… we’re not even sure what it’s going to say, whether it’s private companies or a local government; we do not know.

Clark County health official Dr Eric Yazel said he has seen moves in the past from companies possibly gearing up for terms or at least trying to increase their company’s vaccination count.

“I think you’re going to see more and more employers mandate it just in response to that,” he said of the pending federal rule.

In recent weeks, Yazel said he spoke to staff at five or six large employers in the region, at the request of company management. At these meetings, he helps provide information about vaccines and helps answer any questions people may have.

He said this brings a whole new population of workers and community members to the table, who “are obviously going to have a lot of questions because they were worried enough at least in the beginning that they didn’t get [vaccinated,]” he said.

The health worker said requests began around the time some local hospitals issued vaccination warrants in early August. This includes Baptist Health Floyd in New Albany; the hospital system has set a deadline for all staff in all of its hospitals to be fully immunized by October 31.

Wednesday marked the deadline for Baptist staff who planned to procure the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine to either launch the two-dose series or request a medical or religious exemption, according to a release from Baptist Health. Those planning to receive the two-dose Moderna vaccine or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine have more time.

About 70% of the hospital system’s staff had been fully immunized when the warrant was announced on August 5, and although Baptist Health officials say many more have received the vaccines since then, those numbers were yet to be seen. available Wednesday. They added that they hoped the recent FDA approval of Pfizer would have an impact.

“We hope that the full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine as meeting high standards of safety, efficacy and manufacturing quality will persuade our remaining staff – and members of the public – to get vaccinated,” said a release from Baptist Health.

Clark Memorial Health in Jeffersonville does not yet require staff immunizations, but hospital officials said in a statement they were aware of the federal announcement released last week.

“We agree that the vaccine is our best defense against this virus and have strongly encouraged our staff to get vaccinated,” the statement said. “Right now, we are working to understand the details of this development and the impact it will have on employees and suppliers at our facility. “

Susan Woods, director of recruiting at Talis Group, who also works with a group of human resources directors from large companies within the River Ridge Commerce Center, said employers have already campaigned to increase vaccinations. Their efforts included offering to pay for vaccinations and being granted more time off.

“They all really tried to get everyone vaccinated,” she said. “Because the last thing they want is for someone to have COVID next to someone else and they have to shut down the whole department.”

But, she added, the requirements could likely put more pressure on companies that are already limited in staff. A big problem is the cost of providing vaccines or weekly tests for unvaccinated workers.

“The second thing would be how many employees are they going to lose because of this? Because right now they’re bleeding, ”she said. “Some of my clients are already missing 100 to 120 people in their factories and you just can’t operate like that. “

But there are already indications that federal and state officials, including those in Indiana, could fight the demands. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb released a statement last week following Biden’s speech that while he believes vaccines are the best way to protect against COVID, “I firmly believe it It is not the role of the federal or state government to issue a vaccine mandate to citizens and private companies. “

American Senses Mike Braun (R-Ind.) Dan Sullivan (R-Ala.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Roger Marshall (R-Kas.) And Mike Lee (R-Ut.) With member of the Congressman Fred Keller (R-Pa.) Announced Wednesday that they would seek a Congressional review of the president’s order before it is finalized.

“Not only is this a highly inappropriate invasion of what should be a personal decision for every American that threatens to worsen the current labor shortage, but a federal directive affecting tens of millions of Americans deserves to be ‘to be considered by Congress, representatives elected by the American people to make the laws,’ their statement said.

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita also expressed his intention to fight the warrant both last week and when his office was contacted by email on Tuesday.

“We stand ready to protect the rights of Hoosier citizens and business owners through litigation, if necessary, against the federal overbreadth of the Biden tenure plan,” he said in the statement. “To date, neither the White House, nor any federal or state agency, has issued a single rule or official guideline for businesses and employees to follow. All we have is an announcement from the President that threatens to fine thousands of businesses while undermining the personal freedoms of approximately 80 million Americans. Until a federal or state agency publishes a rule, there is no enforcement impact on Hoosiers. “


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