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Idaho companies should require COVID-19 vaccine for their employees

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Back to normal? Not so fast.

COVID-19 vaccinations have slowed, the delta variant of the novel coronavirus is spreading and COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, intensive care admissions and deaths are back on the rise.

It’s time for Idaho businesses to step up and tell their employees: Vax or move on.

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Scott McIntosh is the Idaho Statesman opinion writer.

Many of us want to go back to the office, but if we go back to our workplace and no one is wearing a mask, we know that around 40 to 60% of our colleagues are not vaccinated.

With so many unvaccinated, this allows the coronavirus to spread, endangering the lives of others, including children 11 and under, who cannot yet be vaccinated.

We are also learning more about the “revolutionary” cases of vaccinated people contracting COVID-19, which puts even more co-workers at risk, quarantine family members, force children to stay home after summer jobs, and jeopardize a safe return to school.

It is time for more companies to start mandating the vaccine as a condition of employment.

Clearly government agencies will not do the job. Anti-vaccine groups have previously intimidated Gov. Brad Little into banning so-called “vaccine passports,” essentially banning any state executive agency from requiring the vaccine. The city of Nampa also caved in to the bullies, saying they would not require employees to be vaccinated. With Nampa City employees enrolled in the city’s health insurance plan, taxpayers must bear the brunt of this bad decision.

Employers cannot tell their workers to come back to the workplace and then let the anti-vaccines do what they want.

Several companies already require their employees to be vaccinated. Locally, Saint-Alphonse, Saint-Luc and Primary Health need vaccines, which makes sense as their mission is to keep people healthy. This is the same reason why they impose the flu shot, so their workers don’t get and spread the flu.

Nationally, more and more non-health-related companies are announcing vaccine requirements: Morgan Stanley, Google, Facebook, Netflix, BlackRock and Saks Fifth Avenue, among others, according to CNN Business.

And why wouldn’t companies need the vaccine?

Businesses need an open economy, free flow of trade. If we have another outbreak of COVID-19, there will be our economic recovery. Companies have every interest in having all their employees vaccinated. They need workers to stay healthy and customers to keep buying.

Not to mention that business leaders, like everyone else, have a moral obligation to ensure public safety.

If employers expect in-person presence in the workplace, then they must make the workplace safe. And workers should put their foot down with their employers: if you don’t need the vaccine and no one is wearing a mask, it’s not a safe work environment, and I’m not going back to the office.

Legally authorized

Can private companies legally require their employees to be vaccinated?

Yes they can.

The Justice Department concluded last month that federal law does not prohibit public agencies and private companies from requiring COVID-19 vaccines that are subject to emergency use authorization.

Similarly, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidelines in late May that federal equal employment opportunity laws do not prevent an employer from requiring that all Employees physically entering the workplace are vaccinated against COVID-19, as long as employers comply with reasonable conditions. ADA hosting provisions and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964, and other EEO considerations.

Of course, employers can and should make exceptions for people who cannot legitimately be vaccinated for medical reasons, and for those who claim religious reasons.

Workers always have the freedom: you don’t need to be vaccinated. No one is holding you back and injecting you with the vaccine. You still have the freedom not to get the vaccine, but you must also accept responsibility for the consequences of your wrong decision.

You have the freedom to go and look for another job. You don’t have the freedom to force your employer to keep you on the payroll if you don’t follow the rules, like getting a drug test. Don’t want to take a drug test? Good, but you can’t work here. Don’t want to wash your hands? Good, but you can’t serve food in a restaurant.

Personally, as a manager, I sent employees home because they were sick with the flu or strep. Why? Of course, I cared about the health of this employee, but I also cared about the health of my other employees – and I cared about the production in my workplace. If this employee infected all of my other workers with the flu or strep, we wouldn’t be able to publish a journal. As a manager, I had every right to send this worker home.

What some seem to miss – repeatedly – is that the personal decision not to be vaccinated and not to wear a mask affects the health of others. You are not alone in this situation, especially when you are indoors closely with other people.

Even if you want to make the unwise personal decision not to get the vaccine, employers still have the freedom – and the responsibility – to make smart decisions for all of their employees.

In the leadership vacuum left by our elected officials to protect public health and safety, it looks like this will force our business leaders to get things done.

Let the free market deal with it. And really, isn’t it The Idaho Way?

Scott McIntosh is the Idaho Statesman opinion writer. You can email him at [email protected] or call him at 208-377-6202. Follow him on Twitter @ ScottMcIntosh12.

BEHIND OUR REPORTING

What is this column about?

This column shares the personal views of Idaho Statesman Opinion Writer Scott McIntosh on current issues in Treasure Valley, Idaho, and nationally. It represents a person’s opinion and aims to stimulate a conversation and solicit the opinions of others. It is meant to be part of an ongoing civil discussion with the ultimate goal of providing solutions to community issues and making it a better place to live, work and play.

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Scott McIntosh is the Idaho Statesman opinion writer. A graduate of Syracuse University, he joined the Statesman in August 2019. He was previously editor of Idaho Press and Argus Observer and owner and editor of Kuna Melba News. He has been honored for his editorials and columns as well as for his reporting on education, business and local government by the Idaho Press Club and the National Newspaper Association. Sign up for his weekly newsletter, The Idaho Way.


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