As COVID-19 variant cases continued to climb, the private sector was paying even closer attention to a rapidly shifting scene.
Most businesses so far were leaving decisions about vaccination up to individual workers, but that could be changing a few weeks from now.
The trend lines show greater interest in exploring the possibility of requiring employees to be vaccinated.
Up to now, businesses have kept their focus on offering incentives such as bonuses and time off.
But they have taken note of California requiring its state workers to either get vaccinated or tested weekly. New York City has issued a similar mandate for its workers.
So, corporate conversation about a requirement in the Cincinnati area workplace is increasing.
As major employers such as Procter & Gamble and Fifth Third Bank repopulate their downtown offices, they’re sticking with recommendations instead of requirements when it comes to getting the shot.
Privately, however, many businesses on both sides of the Ohio River lean in the direction of requirement.
But since local hospitals are not mandating it yet, business is reluctant to rush ahead.
“We had a very different picture three, four weeks ago than we have right now,” Kate Schroder of the Health Collaborative said. “And so, I do think the businesses are starting to take a look at this. But the hospitals are likely to move faster than some of the businesses will and I think will be leaders.”
By Schroder’s count, 200 hospitals nationwide were requiring staff to get the COVID vaccine.
Amanda Nageleisen, Director of Corporate Media Relations for UC Health, provided this statement:
“As a healthcare provider, UC Health requires vaccination for some communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis and influenza. At this time, the COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory for employees. However, we strongly encourage employees to receive vaccination against COVID-19, and the majority of our workforce has chosen to do so.”
Business is proceeding cautiously, not only because of potential litigation but other factors such as proof, how to confirm natural immunity, which vaccines to prefer and exemptions.
“It’s not clear that businesses even want to address those questions or necessarily have the capabilities to,” said Michael Jones, a UC professor of Economics. “I think there’s again real hesitancy, real caution before even dipping your toe in the water.”
But now that the VA has plunged ahead with both feet and the White House is set to require vaccines for federal workers, Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman eyes the FDA’s mid-September decision about the efficacy of the vaccines.
“I am 100% certain that we will see all of our hospital systems and clinical systems require COVID vaccine because we know it’s safe and effective and it reduces risk to the employer,” Kesterman said.
This week’s rapidly-changing environment included guidance from federal legal experts that private companies can make vaccination a condition of employment. Hospitals already do that with the flu.
Even though medical professionals have said COVID is ten times worse than the flu, most have not required a COVID vaccine for staffers.
Just in the past week, vaccinations are 35% higher in Hamilton County and 45% higher in the region, the largest jump since May.