SOMERSET, Pennsylvania – President Joe Biden’s order for companies to achieve 100% vaccination rates among employees or perform weekly testing has sparked an uproar in Somerset County, Chamber of Commerce director Ron said Aldom.
“Some employers have said that employees take it to heart,” Aldom said. “They said, ‘If you instruct me to do this, I’m going.’ “
Calls to some of the companies interviewed by Aldom were not returned.
However, Riggs Industries spokesman Shawn Kaufman responded, saying employees were divided over the vaccination mandate.
“The employees are divided,” he said.
“There is no middle ground.”
Aldom surveyed Somerset’s largest companies. Of the 18 respondents, all expressed their objection to Biden’s order, he said.
The mandate, announced Sept. 10, requires operations with a hundred or more employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly.
“It wasn’t that these companies were not following COVID-19 sanitation and safety rules,” he said, “but they don’t want to be mandated – and shouldn’t be mandated.
“It’s a terrible thing to report someone, especially without any information. “
Now, three weeks after Biden announced the order, there are still no answers to questions of when and how companies should comply, Aldom said.
“Our best defense”
The mandate also requires vaccination for all federal workers – and for contractors who do business with the federal government – as well as for healthcare workers.
Conemaugh Health Systems spokeswoman Kristen Hudak said the hospital is awaiting further guidance.
“We agree that the vaccine is our best defense against this virus and have strongly encouraged our staff to get vaccinated,” she 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. “
St. Francis University in Loretto is among Cambria County‘s Top Employers and expects advice to be released in mid-October, based on information from government sources from the National Association of independent colleges and universities, said Erin McCloskey, vice-president of St. Francis University. for communication and marketing.
“Until that advice is received, we don’t do much,” she said.
The campus has already supported several vaccination clinics on campus, she said.
The Cambria County Chamber of Commerce has not interviewed companies on the matter, and President Amy Bradley said she has not heard any gossip from companies one way or the other.
In Somerset, Aldom said the tenure has worsened on stress already dealt with by the pandemic.
“It’s hard enough to find a workforce,” Aldom said. “The hospitality and tourism industry has experienced extraordinary devastation. Now, are you issuing a warrant on top of that? “
Aldom said he passed the results of the Somerset Chamber investigation to the region’s representatives in Congress.
The staff of U.S. Representative John Joyce, R-Blair, did not respond to requests for an interview on the warrant.
US Senator Pat Toomey, R-Pa. issued a statement after the warrant was announced.
“Choosing the vaccine is the right choice for most of the United States,” Toomey said. “My family and I have received the vaccine, and I encourage all medically fit people to make the same decision. Private companies have the legal authority to impose vaccine mandates on their customers and / or employees if they see fit. But the federal government‘s mandates, of questionable legality, will further alienate skeptics. “
U.S. Senator Bob Casey, D-Pa., Said in a telephone interview that he knows some companies agree and others disagree with the order.
“What I don’t quite understand is what is the alternative here? ” he said. “Just to advance the public health crisis? “
Casey said he believes the mandate is among the most business-friendly steps that can be taken to tackle the coronavirus.
“Complaints about this don’t make sense to me,” he said.
Casey said weekly testing is an option for companies who don’t want to need vaccines.
“And, by the way, there is money available for that,” he said. “We provided a lot of money to city governments and state governments through the US bailout. There should be a lot of resources.
He considered an idea that some people may have, that just making the vaccine available to those who want it would be enough and that those who don’t want to be vaccinated have no impact on the health of people who choose to. to get vaccinated.
“There are a number of things about it,” he said. “One unvaccinated person can make another unvaccinated person sick, maybe a child. And even if an unvaccinated person made a vaccinated person to be positive, I realize that the vaccine protects that person from death and hospitalization, but they can still get sick. “
His response echoes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says “the greatest risk of transmission is in unvaccinated people – who are more likely to be infected and therefore transmit the virus.”
What’s more, the CDC says that a vaccinated person can still get sick, although this is rare.
“But even outside of the direct impact, there are just a lot of people holding back the economy,” Casey said. “We need the economy to come back and you can’t come back robustly if you have tens of millions of unvaccinated people.”
Russ O’Reilly is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on twitter @RussellOReilly.