Big Jeffco employers await more info on vaccine mandate

Critics argue high overall county vax rate make move unnecessary

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 9/22/21

Businesses across Jefferson County will soon be responsible for verifying that their employees have been vaccinated — and requiring weekly COVID-19 testing for those that are not. That’s because …

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Big Jeffco employers await more info on vaccine mandate

Critics argue high overall county vax rate make move unnecessary

Posted

Businesses across Jefferson County will soon be responsible for verifying that their employees have been vaccinated — and requiring weekly COVID-19 testing for those that are not. That’s because of a new mandate announced by President Biden on Sept. 9 that applies to all companies with at least 100 employees.

But in the days after the initial announcement of the mandate, several of the county’s large employers said they were waiting for more information about how the mandate will work and when it will take effect before making changes to their own internal rules and practices.

Companies await rule

Lakewood-based Terumo Blood and Cell Technologies, one of Jeffco’s biggest employers at around 2,300 Jeffco employees, is among the companies where leaders said they are still trying to understand the order.

Senior Vice President Bon Lopez said in an email to Colorado Community Media that his company could not share specific details related to vaccine mandates.

What it could share, he said, is that the company encourages all of its employees to be vaccinated, has held vaccination clinics at its Lakewood campus and requires both masks and daily temperature checks for its employees.

Lopez said about 68% of Terumo Blood and Cell Technologies employees have received at least one vaccine dose as of Sept. 18. According to county data, about 78% of eligible Jeffco residents had received at least one dose of the vaccine as of Sept. 13.

A representative of the manufacturing company Coorstek, which is headquartered in Golden, also said she did not yet have much to say on the order as the company’s leaders work to understand it.

“We are working internally with our leadership teams as well as with our legal and government affairs departments to monitor the status of the official written record of Biden’s Executive Order and OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard,” said a statement provided by Coorstek Senior Director of Global Communications Nancy Fullerton. “CoorsTek will continue to adhere to the requirements once we have additional details.”  

Fullerton also said Coorstek, which employees about 1,300 people in Jeffco according to the county’s economic development corporation, would continue to encourage vaccinations and are following all CDC and governmental guidance.

“We are already doing this”

When asked for his initial thoughts, Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Jason Tidmore said he was unsure how much the order would impact Jeffco businesses given the county’s already-high rate of vaccination.

“By and large, we are already doing this,” he said. “And so when you look at where we are at, we don’t have a long way that we can really grow our vaccinated population.”

Given that, Tidmore said the mandate felt like “an unnecessary burden” on large Jeffco employers that have already by and large been doing the right things to combat COVID-19. Still, Tidmore predicted that there would be compliance by Jeffco employers

But while many employers that will be subject to the mandate are not yet actively requiring vaccinations among their employees, some had already taken that step.

Colorado School of Mines, which will be subject to a different portion of the mandate requiring vaccinations for all employees of Federal contractors, announced during the summer that it was requiring all employees and students to provide the school with proof they were fully vaccinated by the first day of classes.

However, Mines did allow both students and staff to apply for both medical and religious exemptions. According to the Mines website, 90% of students and 86% of Mines staff had been vaccinated as of Sept. 10. About 11% of students and 14% of staff had not yet disclosed their status to the school.

As of Sept. 10, there had been 23 cases of COVID-19 on campus since the start of classes.

Vocal critics, proponents

But while the companies Colorado Community Media reached out to all said they were looking to learn more and pledged to follow the mandate, some residents expressed a far different reaction.

William Pomeroy is a Golden carpenter who said he thinks much of the data about the COVID-19 pandemic is false and refuses to take the vaccine. He said that while he is not currently employed by a business governed by the mandate, he would still refuse vaccination if an employer required it.

“Absolutely, I would,” he said. “I’d quit my job.”

Pomeroy said he also worries about the impact mandates could have on him if he applies for new jobs in the future. Already, he’s had to cancel plans to go to a concert he was looking forward to in Denver after the venue announced it would require vaccination.

Golden resident Julie Ramstetter said she chose to get vaccinated herself but feels the decision to institute a Federal mandate is a bad one at a time when several businesses are already facing employee shortages.

“The attitude of many Americans is they won’t be forced into anything and given a choice they will leave their jobs,” she said in a message to Colorado Community Media.

Other residents, however, think those concerns are overstated.

“It’s important to note that the mandate also says employees can do weekly tests if they aren’t vaccinated — which I think is often overlooked,” said Max Garza. “So, except for the people that just like to make a big about “tyranny” or whatever, this shouldn’t really be a big deal since there is another alternative.”

Also among those applauding the new requirements is Jefferson County Public Health and its executive director, Dr. Dawn Comstock. On Sept. 11, the Metro Denver Partnership for Health, a coordinated public health effort for JCPH and other health departments in the metro area, released a statement expressing its support for Biden’s COVID-19 action plan, which included the mandate.

“The plan aligns with MDPH’s efforts to keep kids in school and businesses open, reduce unnecessary illness and deaths, protect our hospitals and health systems, and help communities thrive again,” the statement read.

In fact, the MDPH expressed a hope that the state of Colorado would issue a mandate of its own covering all teachers, first responders and people in professions licensed by the state.

“Vaccination not only protects our loved ones, keeps children safe, and protects our economy - it is how we get back to normal faster,” said Comstock in the statement. “Federal, state, and local leaders need to act together to control COVID-19, starting with increased vaccine and testing requirements… At the local level we can only do so much, action is needed at the state level.”

In total, Colorado Community Media reached out to 10 large employers in Jefferson County about the mandate and received responses from five of them. MolsonCoors, Martin Marietta and Vitamin Cottage were among those that did not respond (one responded that it did not meet the 100-employee threshold). Here are the other responses:

Boston Market (Headquartered in Golden)

“As we have done throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to closely monitor guidance from local and national health authorities and will update our procedures as necessary to follow health and safety standards to minimize the spread of COVID-19. We will continue to make decisions that put people first - our employees and the guests that we serve.”

Lockheed Martin (employs over 7,000 people in Jeffco, according to the Jeffco EDC)

“As we have done throughout the pandemic, we continue to follow federal, state and local mandates, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to minimize the spread of COVID-19. We also use other best practices to mitigate risks and protect the health and well-being of our employees and partners, while ensuring we meet our commitments to national security.”

A post on the Lockheed Martin website goes on to describe steps the company has taken to protect staff from COVID-19, including requiring masks, encouraging vaccination and providing vaccine clinics for employees. The company says the rate of vaccination for its US workforce is “above the national average.”

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