New federal rules say about 40% of local workers will need COVID vaccinations

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Just over 40% of workers in Bartholomew County will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4 or get tested for the virus weekly under federal government rules issued Thursday.

The new requirements, which were first previewed by President Joe Biden in September, will apply to companies with 100 or more employees, which collectively employ about 20,066 of the nearly 48,276 workers in the county, according to estimates provided by the Greater Columbus Indiana Economic Development Corp.

More than 11,000 of those jobs are in the manufacturing sector.

It is not clear how many of those employees remain unvaccinated. Just 61% of Bartholomew County residents ages 20 to 64 were fully vaccinated as of Wednesday morning meaning that some 18,670 residents in that age range are still unvaccinated according to the Indiana Department of Health and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations will force the companies to require workers to receive either two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by Jan. 4 or be tested weekly and wear a mask while in the workplace, The Associated Press reported. Employees who test positive must be removed from the workplace.

Companies won’t be required to provide or pay for the tests, but they must give paid time off for employees to get vaccines and sick leave to recover from side effects that prevent them from working, according to wire reports. The requirements for masks and paid time off for shots will take effect Dec. 5.

OSHA said companies that fail to comply with the regulations could face penalties of nearly $14,000 per violation.

For the complete story, see Friday’s Republic.