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How will the federal vaccine mandate for large companies impact the Cape Fear?

Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 5:40 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - In an effort to get more people vaccinated, the federal government has taken an action that impacts an estimated 100 million workers.

According to the new OSHA emergency temporary standard, starting January 4, employers with 100 or more workers must ensure their employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or conduct weekly testing.

If you look at New Hanover County’s top employers, many of them already have a strict vaccine policy, but there are others that are working right now to figure out how they’re going to come into compliance.

“Corning strongly encourages all employees get vaccinated, as the health and well-being of our employees remains the company’s top priority. Corning has been committed to doing our part in the fight against COVID-19. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve worked around the clock to manufacture vials to help enable the rapid delivery of vaccines. Corning continues to follow the CDC and local, state, and national health guidance regarding necessary protocols surrounding COVID-19. We will continue to closely monitor this fluid situation and adjust policies as needed to ensure the health and safety of all Corning employees,” a statement from Corning explained.

New Hanover County government, UNCW, NHRMC and Corning already have vaccine mandates or policies that require unvaccinated employees to be tested each week.

“At this time, the university is reviewing the new guidance, and will be discussing it during our regular consultations with the UNC System. We are still determining how these rules may apply to our campus,” said a UNCW spokesperson in an email.

New Hanover County Schools doesn’t track its employees’ vaccination status, or have a mandate.

The City of Wilmington doesn’t have a mandate, but offers a vaccine incentive program and says staff meetings were held today trying to figure out what they need to do to ensure they’re in compliance.

“While the federal vaccine mandate announced today does not apply to state and local governments, the City of Wilmington continuously reviews and updates its COVID-19 policies. Currently, the city encourages vaccinations and offers an incentive to employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The health and well-being of our employees remains a top priority so we can continue to provide high quality services to our residents,” noted a statement from the City of Wilmington.

This temporary rule was just announced Thursday, and it’s a policy the CDC believes will go a long way in getting more people vaccinated.

“Some of our latest data only reinforce why vaccination is so important — showing that unvaccinated people have 6x greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19 and 11x greater risk of dying form COVID- 19 than people who are fully vaccinated,” said CDC director Rochelle Walensky.

On the other hand, some government entities weren’t so happy to hear about the rule.

The NC Labor Commissioner issued a statement sharing his concerns about enforcement, explaining the agency has limited time and resources and they’ve been overwhelmed with COVID-19 related complaints.

“Our compliance officers should be spending their time working with employers to prevent injuries, illnesses and fatalities at construction sites and manufacturing facilities rather than knocking on doors to check an employer’s vaccine records. This would also place an unnecessary burden on employers, many of whom are experiencing an unprecedented worker shortage,” said Commissioner of Labor Josh Dobson.

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