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Colorado business groups react to Biden’s vaccination mandate

Colorado business groups react to Biden’s vaccination mandate

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Syringes loaded with shots of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in the pharmacy of National Jewish Hospital for distribution early Saturday, March 6, 2021, in east Denver.

(The Center Square) – Groups representing businesses in Colorado on Friday reacted to President Joe Biden’s new vaccine mandate for companies with 100 or more employees.

Biden announced he's directing the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration to make a rule requiring vaccinations at the businesses or weekly COVID-19 testing. Any business found in violation of the rule could be fined up to $14,000 per violation.

Sonia Riggs, CEO of the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA), said several of her group’s members have questions that need to be addressed to more fully understand the mandate.

“For instance, does the 100-employee requirement span all locations of a business or does it apply to each individual location?” Riggs told The Center Square. “It’s also important to understand when this rule will go into effect and whether restaurants will have enough time to collect vaccination information from their employees and ensure that their workforce is either vaccinated or seeking testing on a weekly basis.”

A CRA survey from July and August found 25% of member restaurants are considering closing their doors because of new debt that;s built up during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a press conference on Friday, Gov. Jared Polis said he supported the president’s actions in principle.

“We’re at a unique point in the pandemic,” Polis said. “We know how to end this pandemic, but we just need the will to do it.”

However, Polis added that his administration is still awaiting guidance from federal authorities on how to enforce the new rules. Colorado doesn’t have authority over any of federal department's rules, he said.

Several large companies that have employees in Colorado already have vaccination requirements of their own, such as SoulCycle, United Airlines, and Arrow Electronics.

The state of Colorado and several municipalities have also implemented their own vaccination requirements for public workers.

Last month, the Colorado State Board of Health also approved a temporary COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers in the state.

Diane Schwenke, president and CEO of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, told The Center Square that the president's "wide-sweeping" plan "took many of my members by surprise."

"Until OSHA issues the Emergency Temporary Standard for vaccination most of us are left in the dark about what the impacts, including costs are going to be," she said. 

While businesses wait for clarification, some will struggle to meet the additional requirements from rules heaped on them, argued Kevin Kuhlman, vice president of federal government relations at the National Federation of Independent Business, a small business advocacy group with a branch in Colorado.

“Small business owners and their employees want to operate in a safe and healthy manner that allows them to stay open. Additional mandates, enforcement, and penalties will further threaten the fragile small business recovery,” Kuhlman told The Center Square in an email.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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