BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- President Joe Biden's newest vaccine mandate and other policies announced Thursday afternoon are the strongest push yet, affecting about two-thirds of the nation's workforce.
President Biden directed the U.S. Labor Department to require all employers with 100 or more employees to require their workers to either be vaccinated or tested once a week. Companies could face a $14,000 fine per violation.
There are about 29,000 federal workers in Oregon who as learned earlier Thursday will now be required to get a COVID-19 vaccination. Contract workers for the federal government are also under the mandate.
Mark Shylanski, who is visiting Bend, believes the COVID-19 vaccine mandate is necessary.
"We're never going to get past COVID until we really shut down the spread of the infection and vaccines are one of the key tools in getting there," Schylanski said.
Joseph ONeil, another Bend visitor, said he also agrees with the mandate. He said when the world is in a pandemic, a mandate to get the vaccine makes sense.
"It seems like we're not getting ahead of this pandemic until we do something that really takes a strong stance, kind of going on the offensive to put an end to it," ONeil said.
But a downtown Bend business owner who did not want to be identified told NewsChannel 21 he feels the government is overreaching by mandating large private businesses to have their employees vaccinated. It made him concerned that it would only be a matter of time before his small business would face a vaccine mandate as well.
To make testing more accessible, the president also announced that Walmart, Amazon and Kroger will start selling at home rapid Covid-19 tests for no profit over the next three months.
Governments also will be reviewing the new mandates and deciding on their future course of action.
"The first thing we want to do is communicate with our workforce," City of Bend Communications Director Anne Aurand said. "I want them to know as much as we know, as soon as possible."
Tom O'Shea, managing director at Sunriver Resort, which has more than 800 workers, said the mandate did not surprise him, though the cut-off number of 100 employees did.
"The potential to get COVID-19 with 98 employees is the same as 100 employees," O'Shea said, adding that he's strongly encouraging his staff to get vaccinated.
Scott Cooper, executive director of NeighborImpact, said, "The employees themselves will now, I suppose, have a choice to make, as we go through a process of trying to comply with an order that's still not entirely clear."
"But at the end of the day, the alternate golden rule applies: The people with the gold make the rules, and we are certainly a recipient of federal gold, so following federal rules is really not a choice that we have," Cooper added.
Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ore., issued this statement: “I am opposed to a federal government vaccine mandate, but I continue to strongly encourage everyone who is able and willing to get vaccinated to do so immediately. The Covid-19 vaccine is the best way to protect oneself from potentially serious health outcomes due to the virus.”