President Announces New Vaccine Mandate for Large Companies

President Joe Biden last week unveiled his latest plans to stem a delta-fueled surge in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations, including ordering companies with 100 or more employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated or tested at least weekly for Covid-19.

A separate executive order will require vaccinations for federal workers in the executive branch and contractors.

In Canby, one of the largest employers is Columbia Distributing, which completed construction and began operations at its new, 530,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center on Southeast 1st Avenue in Canby nearly one year ago.

With 2,844 total employees, including 299 in Canby, Columbia would clearly fall under the new mandate by the president and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), but the company was not prepared this week to explain how it would respond to the new guidelines.

“We’re watching this very closely,” Director of Corporate Communications Lindsi Taylor told The Canby Current in an email. “We have no comment at this time.”

The mandate will likely affect thousands of workers in Canby. Most of the city’s largest employers, and even many of the smaller businesses, are part of national or global chains that would be covered by the mandate, including Fred Meyer (Kroger) and fast-food restaurants.

The Canby School District, likely the city’s largest single employer, fell under a separate mandate last month when Governor Kate Brown ordered all educators, school staff and volunteers to receive the vaccine.

The president’s new mandate could apply to as many as 100 million Americans — or two-thirds of the country’s workforce. Businesses who refuse to comply, Biden said, could face fines of up to nearly $14,000 per violation.

“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” Biden said in his address to the nation last Thursday.

Brown thanked the president on Twitter later that day, saying he was “setting us on the path out of this pandemic.”

“Vaccines are safe, convenient, and our most effective protection against Covid-19,” she said. “This will complement our efforts in Oregon to get more shots in arms and keep our schools, businesses, and communities open.”

Nationwide, the response to the news has been mixed, with many larger companies and trade groups welcoming the directive even as smaller businesses are bristling.
Some companies say the order imposes yet another burden that could intensify historic worker shortages and supply-chain bottlenecks.

A handful of corporate giants such as United Airlines, McDonald’s and Walt Disney had already imposed vaccination mandates on some or all of their workers in the spring.

Meanwhile, the highly contagious delta variant has made the Canby area a hot spot for new infections in Clackamas County. According to ZIP code-level data from the Oregon Health Authority, the Canby area has now experienced more than 2,000 cases of Covid-19 — nearly 10% of the total population.

As of Monday, its case rate was 88.5 cases per 1,000 residents, up from the 75.1 the area was registering in mid-August.

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