By Caleb Lunetta
Signal Senior Staff Writer
Following this week’s announcement of a federal mandate requiring large businesses to provide proof of their employees’ vaccination status or weekly negative tests, Santa Clarita Valley business leaders expressed Friday they had concerns about the policy’s enforcement and lack of clarity.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden ordered sweeping new vaccine requirements for millions of private-sector business owners and employees, which includes mandates for employers with 100 or more workers to require them to be vaccinated or tested weekly. Employers will also have to provide paid time off for vaccination and possible vaccination side effects.
Not including the federal and health care workers who were also ordered to provide proof of vaccination or weekly tests, the administration said in a statement that it expects the “emergency temporary standard,” or ETS, will impact more than 80 million Americans in private sector businesses with 100 or more employees.
Upon learning of the new federal mandate, the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce sent out an immediate notice to its members informing them of the changes, but indicating that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was “not immediately clear” on the timeline for the ETS rollout and enforcement.
“Our companies have been really on the front line of figuring out how to comply with protocols that have changed multiple times over the past 18 months… so a new mandate really isn’t anything new,” said Holly Schroeder, president and CEO of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp. “It’s just that it makes it more challenging for companies that are struggling to find workers and just trying to keep moving forward.”
According to Schroeder, in the SCV there are more than 100 businesses that locally employ more than 100 workers. And while the largest private sector companies in terms of number of employees, such as Six Flags Magic Mountain or Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, may already have the infrastructure in place to adapt to the change, others most likely do not.
“A small, even midsize restaurant can get to 80 to 100 employees depending on if they’re doing a breakfast, lunch, dinner,” said Schroeder. “And retailers, depending on their hours and stuff, can employ a lot of people. So, companies that you might not think of as large can actually have a decent, you know, have a decent-sized employment base.”
Schroeder maintained that local businesses generally were not anti-vaccination, but instead argued that the COVID-19 broad stroke mandates, from the county up to the federal level, have been vague even to the many employers who are trying to strictly adhere to them.
“One size fits all rarely works, and it rarely is the most strategic approach,” said Schroeder.
OSHA representatives were unavailable to comment on the specific timeline or how enforcement will be conducted as of the publication of this article.