SALT LAKE CITY — In an effort to drastically curb the resurgent COVID-19 pandemic, President Joe Biden announced an initiative Thursday that will compel all businesses across the country that have more than 100 employees to require their workers to either get vaccinated against COVID-19 or get tested for the virus regularly.
It's hoped the president's new six-pronged plan — which will affect businesses both in the private sector and not — will drastically reduce the lethal effects of the pandemic. The mandates included in the plan affect about 100 million workers nationwide, or about two-thirds of the U.S. workforce.
Biden stated that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will issue an emergency temporary standard, meaning the new requirements will go into effect in the near future. Businesses that don't issue a vaccination requirement with paid time off to allow for vaccination and recovery could be fined up to $14,000 per violation.
What will this plan look like for Utah businesses?
Conservative politicians in the state have already spoken out against the order and announced they would fight against this new plan, and many Utah politicians like Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. John Curtis have spoken out against it.
Curtis stated that while vaccines should be encouraged, "during a time of historic distrust of the CDC and federal health agencies, President Biden moving to illegally mandate private citizens at private companies be vaccinated is illegal and absurd. This announcement will only create more vaccine hesitancy and distrust of the federal government, the opposite of what we need in this moment."
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson both issued statements that agreed with the importance of the vaccine but questioned the federal reach and legality of the order.
What types of Utah businesses are impacted?
In Utah, many of the bigger businesses had already instituted a vaccine requirement for employees, including the majority of universities, some venues such as Sundance and USANA Amphitheater, as well as some big-name businesses in Utah like Goldman Sachs, Adobe, Facebook and Deloitte. Most major chains like Walmart, CVS and McDonald's already have a vaccine requirement implemented on a corporate level.
Universities and government offices make up nine of the top 16 largest employers in Utah, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services, which means a sizable portion of Utah workers were already facing vaccination requirements in the workplace.
Over 10% of Utah's economy comes from the defense industry, which is mostly composed of federal workers and the military. These groups already had a vaccine requirement. A large portion of the defense revenue comes from government contractors who generally had to be vaccinated in order to work with the government.
But the plan would affect many of the large Utah-based companies that previously told KSL.com that they were strongly encouraging employees to be vaccinated but not requiring it or were still undecided.
The largest employers in the state of Utah, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services, include:
- Health care organizations like Intermountain Healthcare and University of Utah Health
- Chains like Amazon, Target, Costco, Home Depot and Lowe's
- Multilevel marketing companies like Nu Skin, DoTerra and Young Living
- Tech companies like Vivint, Micron, Qualtrics, Domo, Novell and Adobe
Of the top 57 largest employers in Utah, the majority would have to implement a vaccine requirement. However, these large companies only make up a little over half of Utah's private workforce.
In 2017, small businesses, defined as businesses with 500 employees or fewer, made up 46% of the state's workforce; and according to census data, the majority of small businesses in Utah have between 20 and 99 employees. That leaves a large portion of the Utah workforce that would not be included in the new initiative and would not necessarily have to implement a vaccine requirement.
However, those employers are still legally able to choose to require vaccination for their employees. Private employers can institute a vaccine requirement as long as they make reasonable accommodations for their employees with medical and religious exemptions.
So, while Biden's announcement will affect some of the biggest employers in the state, many employers have already implemented requirements and a large portion of Utah small businesses are exempt from the initiative.