“Vaccination protects all people, including Pierce County’s workforce, against COVID-19 and keeps our businesses, schools and society open,” Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department director Dr. Anthony Chen said in a statement sent to The News Tribune on Friday.
Pierce County workers employed at businesses with 100 or more employees soon will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19. A forthcoming federal policy would require businesses of that size nationwide to mandate immunizations or offer weekly coronavirus testing, President Joe Biden announced Thursday. Due to rules already requiring Washington state employees and health care workers to be vaccinated, the new rule would have the largest impact on employees in retail, distribution and manufacturing.
Others saw the vaccine mandate as cumbersome to businesses.
Tom Pierson, president and CEO of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, said he thought the mandate would be a burden on businesses as they try to navigate the new rules.
“Businesses want to take care of their employees and clients, so they’re doing everything they can,” Pierson said. “This mandate, my thought is that it’s going to increase the liability for employers depending on how the rules are written.”
Pierson said he wanted more specifics on how the rules would be implemented and enforced. He said the rules need enough leeway to give people time to get vaccinated.
The Economic Development Board of Tacoma-Pierce County publishes an annual list of major employers, businesses with a workforce of 100 or more. Its 2020 list counts an estimated 167,959 employees working at these larger companies.
The county’s 10 largest private employers operate in health care, retail, distribution, manufacturing, gaming and insurance industries. The county’s two largest private employers, Multicare Health System and Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, already require COVID-19 vaccines for all staff.
The largest private company affected by the new rule is Safeway & Albertsons, with an estimated 2,153 full time employees in 2020. It is followed by Emerald Queen Casino, Fred Meyer Retail and Distribution Center, Amazon Distribution Centers, Boeing, Costco, State Farm Insurance Companies and Walmart.
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