Biden vaccine mandate brings nearly 1K people to committee meeting
SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly a thousand people showed up in person, or joined online, for a meeting Monday of the Business and Labor interim committee at Utah’s capitol. Almost all of them oppose President Joe Biden’s order for a business vaccine mandate.
The chair of the committee, Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, took an informal poll of the audience, and only two people present and several more online said they were in support of the order.
The state gives some guidance on Mr. Biden’s vaccine mandate
For the first hour and a half lawmakers heard from state agencies including the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity, Utah’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (UOSH), Utah Labor Commission, and the Utah Attorney General’s office.
“In our conversations with businesses so far we have not heard anybody express support for a general mandate from the administration,” said Benjamin Hart, Deputy Director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity.
“That being said, he added, “we have heard some businesses who have expressed that they would like to require all of their employees to be vaccinated.”
Utah has its own Division of Occupational Safety and Health. It’s run with half state money and half federal money.
Representatives from UOSH said Utah has to be “at least as effective” as federal OSHA in the rules it follows for workplace safety.
“We’re audited every year by federal OSHA,” said the Commissioner of the Utah Labor Commission, Jaceson Maughan.
“If OSHA were to determine we were not as effective as (the national agency) it could become an issue where OSHA would try to push that issue or even take steps to potentially invalidate that plan and return Utah to federal jurisdiction.”
Utah likely to sue, which could take time
Maughn said once OSHA comes out with it’s standards for an Emergency Temporary Standard, Utah will have 30 days to adopt it. Maughn said it’s effective for 6 months, then it would have to be renewed.
“Say we direct you not to implement the standard,” the committee’s House chairman, Rep. Joel Ferry asked.
“The ramification is the federal government can come in and take over our OSHA department?”
“That could potentially be the final solution,” Maughan said. “That is a worst case scenario, but it potentially exists.”
Utah Solicitor General, Melissa Holyoak, testified Reyes’ office is “confident” in their legal standing against the order. She reiterated they believe it’s unconstitutional and illegal.
There is potential for a special session during interim week in mid-October for lawmakers to tackle this issue. House minority leader Brian King told KSL Friday that he was concerned that this meeting was a precursor to a special session.
Republicans haven’t said as much, although athey have said the special session is possible.
The overwhelming opposition against a vaccine mandate
Business associations like the Salt Lake Chamber, The General Contractors Association, and Utah’s Restaurant Association expressed their opposition to the federal requirements, as did several companies with 100 or more employees in Utah.
“We advocate businesses to have the right to make their own decisions in the best interest of the of employees and customers without government overreach, said Ginger Chinn of The Salt Lake Chamber, and we feel this is a mandate that reflects government overreach.”
The (little) support for the order
One of the rare public commenters supporting the order questioned why it’s being referred to as a mandate.
“I feel confused by everyone calling this only a vaccine mandate, especially elected officials,” said Stephanie Finley of Salt Lake City. “This is vaccines or testing,” she said.
The hours of public comment
The majority of the time was spent hearing from the public. Each person had one minute to express their point.
Some of the comments were extreme and shared misinformation. Many wandered into points about vaccine safety. Senator Bramble had to remind people several times that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the federal proposal, not other issues related to Covid or vaccines. Some people used biblical references to make their point.
“The snake that I am concerned about is the ancient biblical snake that would have us believe that we are not created in the image of God but that we are created in the image of government, in the image of Fauci, in the image of big pharma, or anyone that would try to force these vaccines on us,” one woman said.
“I refused to bite the “poison apple” of these vaccines or testing.”
Right now, 52% of Utahns are fully vaccinated according to the state’s coronavirus website.
Lawmakers said 3% of Utah businesses have 100 or more employees, representing 65 percent of Utah’s employment base.
The federal mandate also requires that the roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also will have to be fully vaccinated.
Many of the members of the public who spoke said they were small business owners. Mr. Biden’s order applies to businesses with 100 employees or more. Some argued it’s “just a matter of time” until mandates trickle down to them.
How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus
COVID-19 coronavirus spreads person to person, similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:
- Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
- Don’t touch your face.
- Wear a mask to protect yourself and others per CDC recommendations.
- Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet).
- If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities).
- Get a flu shot.
Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707
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