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Local companies and agencies are now reviewing President Biden’s COVID-19 testing mandate for unvaccinated Americans, the most aggressive push the administration has made to increase vaccination numbers.
On Thursday, President Biden announced that he is directing the Department of Labor to have all companies with at least 100 employees require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test each week.
The White House estimates that this will effect 80 million Americans – presenting a logistical challenge for some companies, according to the Onondaga County Executive.
Ryan McMahon said that the county has looked into implementing a vaccine or testing mandate for county government employees. He said hurdles became clear in the planning phase – from the availability of tests to who would actually administer them.
“Who’s going to come in at the graveyard shift and do the testing? Who’s gonna come in at the different shifts and where am I going to get the people?” said McMahon, “there are some things that need to change in the infrastructure before what is being talked about at the federal level is even feasible.”
President Biden’s vaccine and testing mandate for private companies is ultimately about increasing vaccination numbers. According to the CDC, 80% of the adult population in Onondaga County is fully vaccinated.
McMahon doesn’t believe this mandate will move the needle far – making the primary concern for companies that will need to meet the federal mandate the tests.
“How do you do it, and make it convenient so you don’t lose your workforce either. these are all logistic things that i hope the federal government has thought through,” said McMahon.
As part of these new initiatives – President Biden announced that the White House will be speeding up production of virus tests. They have also secured deals with retailers like Walmart to sell the tests at cost.
While companies begin to look over logistical challenges – some are calling into question the legality of President Biden’s mandate. Central New York Republican lawmakers NY21 Representative Elise Stefanik and NY22 Representative Claudia Tenney have called the mandate unconstitutional.
However, an attorney from Tully Rinckey specializing in federal and New York State labor laws believes this should stand up to legal scrutiny. The national threat presented by COVID-19 gives the President legal precedent for this kind of an executive order, according to Attorney Melanie Franco.
“When it effects interstate commerce or it’s an issue of national security and health, the presidents allowed to make executive orders like this,” said Franco, “the courts can still examine it to make sure it’s legal – but when you look at how this is effecting such large companies and businesses, it shouldn’t have any legal implications.”
According to Franco, there would not be a lot of legal recourse for employees looking to avoid compliance with the mandate. As long as employers offer accommodations for those with religious and medical exemptions – of which there are few – employees would need to comply to stay in their jobs.
It’s unclear when this mandate takes effect. Some major companies, including Disney, Walmart, Uber and Google already have some form of a vaccine mandate for certain employees.
The mandate does not appear to have an impact on local government employees. However, the City of Syracuse was already planning on making this a requirement for city employees – with testing set to begin next week.