SC politicians, employers respond to vaccine mandates announced by President Biden

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GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – A sweeping new vaccine mandate Governor Henry McMaster is calling a nightmare, has Upstate employers and hospitals figuring out what’s next. President Joe Biden announced Thursday evening a list of mandatory rules to get more people vaccinated.

Gibson White works in a place where state health data shows COVID-19 is running rampant.

She’s a teacher.

“They’re getting sick, they’re getting behind and I can’t imagine what it’s doing for other industries too,” said Upstate Teacher, Gibson White.

She’s vaccinated, but wishes all her colleagues were too, she told us to prevent the thousands of quarantines and disruptions to her students’ learning.

President Joe Biden’s plan mandates private employers with more than 100 workers to require them to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing. It also applies to healthcare facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid.

Upstate attorney, John Reckenbeil told 7 News, these mandates are within legal bounds.

“For healthcare facilities, it’s pretty specific. I think he is going to be able to get to private and public hospitals. It literally has these plans that have already been adopted, for how hospitals treat COVID patients, well now they’re going to amend those plans that have to be adopted within 30 days by states to get funding,” said Upstate Attorney, John Reckenbeil.

He said same goes for requiring private employers to mandate vaccines.

“OSHA is going to be able to come in and enforce it and say, you’re running an unsafe workplace, we’re going to shut you down,” Reckenbeil said.

Greenville Resident, Robert Garrett told us he thinks it’s all too much.

“I’m scared of getting mine because I don’t want to get sick,” said Greenville Resident, Robert Garrett.

Others like White said, it’s the only way back to normalcy.

“I’m sure some people won’t want to stay at their jobs but they get that choice,” White told us.

Governor Henry McMaster has expressed great opposition over all of this. In fact, he tweeted, “we will fight them to the gates of hell to protect the liberty and livelihood of every south Carolinian.”

AnMed Health already implemented a vaccine requirement for its staff in August. Officials said about 64 percent of its workforce is either fully vaccinated or have had one shot.

“We watched the president last night. I watched the president last night. I certainly agree that vaccines are important,” said William Kenley, CEO of AnMed Health. “We believe in vaccination. Vaccination keeps people from getting sick. It’s not a 100 percent, but it’s effective and that’s the reason we put it in place with our team here,” Kenley said.

Kenley said employees have until the end of the month to complete the process. Kenley said employees must either complete the vaccination process or personally attest. 

“…that you have a medical reason to not take the vaccine. You have a personal religious belief, reason that you choose not to take the vaccine or that you’ve actually had the virus,” Kenley said. “We are requiring it for our team and we will work through this going forward, ultimately with what the federal government does require of us.”

Congressman Jeff Duncan released a statement following Biden’s announcement:

“I am against COVID-19 vaccine mandates on employees at every level—federal, state, and private—and will continue to oppose such imposing measures. The latest Biden Executive Order on Vaccine Mandates is an attack on employed Americans, and I believe it is unconstitutional. I am not anti-vaccine, but I am anti-vaccine mandate, and forcing a vaccine should never be a condition for employment. I am happy to see SC Governor Henry McMaster and Attorney General Alan Wilson leading the fight against this on the state level. I will always fight against such extreme measures of government overreach,” Duncan said.

7 News asked a handful of large Upstate employers how this impacts them, we heard back from Denny’s and Bon Secours-St. Francis. You can find their full statements below.

Gail Sharps Myers, Chief People Officer, Denny’s:

As always, the health and safety of our employees in the Upstate is our top priority, and this guides every decision we make. Denny’s closely monitors the impact Covid-19 is having in the communities where we operate and we are proactively taking steps to ensure the safety of our corporate support center and company-owned restaurants, which includes strongly encouraging our teams to be fully vaccinated. As guidelines from the federal government and local and national health officials continue to evolve, so will our vaccination policies.

Bon Secours St. Francis – Greenville:

“Bon Secours is committed to the health and well-being of our patients, associates and communities. We will continue to make decisions based on the needs of the communities we serve, in compliance with any local, state and federal requirements. Now and always, our associates’ health and safety are our top priority as they care for our communities.”

Prisma Health:

“At Prisma Health, nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our patients and the members of our team. Throughout the pandemic, we have encouraged COVID-19 vaccination for everyone who is eligible, and we continue to do so.

Prisma Health is committed to complying with all federal requirements, including those that were recently announced. We are working to understand the full scope of these new requirements and will be implementing the appropriate protocols for compliance as necessary.”

SC OSHA:

South Carolina OSHA is aware of President Biden’s announced plans that may impact South Carolina employers. This plan requires the issuance of an emergency temporary standard (ETS) from Federal OSHA. We currently do not have the proposed language of the ETS from Federal OSHA, but will evaluate South Carolina’s response once received. Should Federal OSHA issue an ETS that may require the state’s employers to take some form of action, ample notice will be provided.

For today, and until further notice, nothing has changed for South Carolina employers. Regardless of any plans from Federal OSHA, all employers are still responsible for maintaining safe and healthy worksites, and South Carolina OSHA is committed to ensuring the safety and health of all the state’s employees.

For additional questions or assistance, employers may contact: SC OSHA Standards Office at 803.896.7661 for compliance assistance. They can also contact SC Outreach and Education Office at 803.896.7744 for consultation and training
services.

You can find more details on the announcement from President Biden here:

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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