Last week, President Joe Biden announced a sweeping mandate that requires all businesses with more than 100 employees to either require staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine or hold weekly coronavirus testing.
At a press briefing Tuesday, local legal experts outlined what businesses who choose not to comply could face in terms of punishment.
“We should expect that businesses will be inspected for COVID compliance,” said Robyn Smith, a Louisville attorney whose practice focuses on workers’ litigation, “They have the ability to fine; they have the ability, in egregious cases, to shut down.”
Smith said she believes that implementation and punishment will be less severe than what business owners think. She also said she anticipates punishment won’t ultimately be harmful to the wider local economy.
As these mandates go into effect, the job of enforcement will go to federal and state OSHA offices.
In Louisville, the Environmental Health Division at the Department of Public Health and Wellness receives calls from employees who have complaints about their employer’s handling of safety issues.
According to Nick Hart, the assistant director of the Environmental Health Division, complaints have included reports of employers forcing workers to come into work despite a positive COVID-19 diagnosis or before they have completed the recommended isolation time.
“Or it’s another employee complaining about an employer allowing positive cases to come into work and potentially exposing them in the workplace,” Hart said.
Biden’s mandate comes as the delta variant continues to drive increased COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations across the U.S.
As flu season begins, health experts fear that it will further tax an already stressed health care system.
“We are expecting this year to be much worse because we are back together again. And just like how RSV season, this summer, was bad, worse than previous years, we are expecting a bad flu season,” said Dr. Sarah Moyer, chief health strategist for the city.
Moyer said that this upcoming flu season is expected to not only be worse than last year, which was very mild due to masking and people being at home, but also worse than previous years.
She said that the flu is particularly concerning because it affects the same areas of the body that COVID-19 targets.
Much like she has done with COVID-19 vaccines, she urges people to get their flu shots, which can be administered the same day as the coronavirus vaccine.
The mu variant of COVID-19 was briefly mentioned at Tuesday’s briefing. Research has shown it to be an even more vaccine-resistant and transmissible variant than delta. It has made an appearance on the West Coast of the U.S.
Dr. SarahBeth Hartlage, the interim medical director for the Department of Health and Wellness, said that while there have been no confirmed human cases of the mu variant in the commonwealth, it has been found in state wastewater.