Private employers should require proof of vaccine, NC governor says

Private employers should require proof of vaccine, NC governor says

Photo: Briana Crane/Axios

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Gov. Cooper on Thursday issued new guidance urging private employers to require workers to show proof of their COVID-19 vaccination.

If employees remain unvaccinated, employers should require them to get tested weekly, wear masks and practice social distancing at work, Cooper’s office says.

Additionally, the governor issued an executive order requiring vaccination (or weekly testing, mask wearing and social distancing for the unvaccinated) for the employees who work directly for him by September 1.

  • This measure affects roughly 55,000 state employees. It applies to cabinet agencies such as the Department of Public Safety (which includes prisons) and Transportation (which includes the DMV).

Why it matters: The governor’s announcement marks a significant change in tone on vaccinations. Whereas previously state health officials had taken a milder approach with encouraging and even rewarding vaccinations, this measure aims to make life a little more inconvenient for those who choose not to get a vaccine.

  • The guidance also provides a cover for private employers who may have wanted to require vaccines outright themselves.

“We are at a crossroads in this pandemic and we need the private sector to help us increase vaccine rates. Right now, being a good corporate citizen means getting your people vaccinated,” Cooper said during a press conference.

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“Our economy depends on it.”

The big picture: Nationwide and locally, many employers have begun requiring that all their employees get vaccinated. Last week, for instance, both Atrium Health and Novant Health said they will start requiring employees to get the vaccine (or provide a medical or religious reason why they can’t). CaroMont, Gastonia’s biggest employer, is mandating vaccines for its employees, too.

  • Other state governments are also requiring vaccines. This week, California officials said they’ll require vaccination for state employees or face mandatory weekly testing, as CNBC reported.
  • On Thursday, President Biden said federal employees and onsite contractors must show proof of vaccination or face regular testing and wear masks inside.

Yes, but: While Cooper is encouraging people — even those who are vaccinated — to wear a mask indoors in accordance with the CDC’s new guidance, he is not issuing a new mask mandate. “Where we’re going to focus is getting people vaccinated,” the governor said.

  • All K-12 schools should require masking, regardless of vaccination status, Cooper also said. CMS meets Friday morning to discuss masks in the classroom.

By the numbers: Driven by the highly contagious Delta variant, coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths have all been rising in recent weeks statewide.

  • North Carolina reported 3,298 new coronavirus cases on Thursday — the most since February.
  • Statewide there are 1,141 Covid-19 patients in the hospital as of July 28, up from 384 a month prior.
  • More than 94% of new coronavirus cases have occurred in people who are not fully vaccinated, according to the NC DHHS.
  • North Carolina has administered nearly 9.8 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. 57% of the adult population is fully vaccinated.

Cooper urged vaccinated residents to channel their frustration into urging loved ones to get vaccinated. He also said it is irresponsible to not be vaccinated at this point. “Not only will you cause problems for yourself, you’ll cause problems for other people,” he said.

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