MINNEAPOLIS — OSHA (Occupational, Safety and Health Administration) says it will not enforce President Biden's vaccine-or-testing mandate for large businesses as legal challenges continue to wind their way through federal court.
But with the future of the mandate in doubt, the nations' leading medical associations are calling on businesses to take matters into their own hands.
"We encourage all businesses with 100 or more employees to not delay in implementing this standard."
The American Medical Association is among roughly 60 professional medical groups who signed a joint statement calling the OSHA requirement "reasonable and essential to protect workers."
The groups, along with a group of medical experts that includes Dr. Michael Osterholm from the University of Minnesota, cite CDC data and numerous studies to make their case.
"Vaccines are effective in preventing COVID cases, hospitalizations and, most importantly, deaths. Compared to the vaccinated, the unvaccinated are 11 times more likely to die. A recent study shows that in the United States, vaccines are five times more effective in preventing serious illness and hospitalization than a previous COVID infection. Any vaccine risk is considerably less common and less serious than the consequences of contracting COVID."
Still, it's unclear what, if any, impact it will have on companies that have yet to issue a vaccine or testing mandate on their own. KARE11 sat down with Vicki Stute, VP of Programs and Business Services for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, to discuss the statement. The Minnesota Chamber is opposed to the OSHA mandate, but it has spent months trying to help businesses prepare for it's implementation.
Kent Erdahl: "At this point, with us being this far down the road. Do you feel like that the joint statement sway many businesses?"
Vicki Stute: "It certainly could. Businesses have, for 20 months, protected their employees. They know that vaccinations are keeping people safe, but at the same time they have the autonomy to make those decisions for themselves and for their employees."
Erdahl: "Do we know how many Minnesota businesses already have a mandate of some kind in place?"
Stute: "We don't have specific data on that."
Erdahl: "Have you heard of any going to mandates in recent weeks?"
Stute: "We have a handful. There are certainly companies out there that have included that mandate or put in certain guidelines and best practices. There's others who are very concerned about what it will do to their workforce and whether they'll lose employees because of the mandate."
Erdahl: "Has the Chamber taken a position in terms of recommendations to businesses on what they should consider doing?"
Stute: "We've not taken a formal position. We have provided best practices and examples throughout the pandemic that businesses can use for themselves. We believe that businesses should be autonomous in terms of their decision making."
No matter who ultimately gets to decide, the courts or individual companies, the AMA and other medical associations say mandates have clearly been effective.
"When employers require workers to get vaccinated, vaccination rates increase to over 90 percent."