Michigan business groups urge Biden to reconsider mandate

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President Joe Biden walks to Marine One at the White House in Washington for a flight to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and then onto Hartford and Storrs, Ct., Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan business groups on Monday urged President Joe Biden to reconsider a plan to require most workers to get vaccinated or regularly tested for COVID-19 but said, if it is enacted, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer should ensure related state rules are no stricter.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce and six local chambers raised a host of concerns and questions over the pending federal mandate, which will apply to employers with at least 100 employees. They cited the cost, the logistical challenge of checking workers’ vaccination status and test results at a time human resources or other staffing is limited and said the 100-employee threshold is arbitrary.

The organizations also asked how employees will be counted, whether the unvaccinated will be able to work while awaiting weekly test results and how long companies will have to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s rule.

Rich Studley, president, and CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce said the regulations may be announced later this week or next week. Michigan is among 27 states that operate and enforce workplace safety rules instead of the U.S. government. OSHA-approved state plans must be at least as effective as the federal program.

“Sometimes there’s been a tendency in the past that state officials look at a federal standard as a jumping-off point to do more, to do differently, to enact substantially more stringent standards. That would be our concern,” Studley said.

A message seeking comment was left with the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Biden, who resisted vaccine requirements previously, has shifted to favoring them due to a stubborn slice of the public that has refused to be inoculated and has jeopardized the lives of others and the country’s economic recovery.

“The federal vaccine mandate is well-intentioned, but unfortunately it creates an entirely new level of private-sector responsibilities our member businesses, by and large, have neither the experience nor the resources to carry out at this time,” said Nikki Devitt, president of the Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce.

About 61.5% of people ages 12 and older are fully vaccinated in Michigan, the 20th-highest among states but lower than the national rate of 66.7%.

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