793,000 Coloradans fall under Bidens push for vaccines in workforce

Colorado business groups are preparing to implement President Joe Biden’s new mandate requiring employees at companies with at least 100 people to be vaccinated or face mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing. But it won’t be without some confusion and pushback.

“We understand that our elected and public health officials have had to make difficult decisions throughout this pandemic to try and keep more people safe,” new Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO J.J. Ament said in a statement. “We have long supported the ability of employers to make such decisions for their own organizations. We continue to support that local approach today.”

The new federal rules come through an executive order. There’s also a mandate with no testing option for workers at companies that do business with the federal government, such as companies that contract for management of the state’s vast federal land.

Colorado has about 3,100 employers with 100 or more people on staff, totaling 793,000 workers, according to the state Department of Labor and Employment. That includes professional sports organizations like the Denver Broncos and the Colorado Rockies. The federal government anticipates that 80% of the nationwide workforce will be covered by this order.

“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin,” Biden said Thursday in an address from the White House.

Colorado companies are still reviewing the rule changes, said Loren Furman, senior vice president at the Colorado Chamber of Commerce.

“Some may not have concerns with this requirement since there are some — the health care industry — that are already requiring vaccines,” she said. “However, prior COVID mandates have caused concerns among employers who felt they had to ‘police’ their employees or customers, and I anticipate there will be Colorado businesses that raise that same concern with a vaccine mandate.”

Gov. Jared Polis did not make a public statement as of Thursday afternoon about the new rules.

“It’s on our radar,” Polis spokesman Conor Cahill told The Post.

Colorado Retail Council President Chris Howes, who lobbies on behalf of big-box retailers in the state, said his members will do “everything in our power to come into compliance” with federal laws as soon as possible.

“I’d also comment that it’s been incredibly difficult for our members for the last 18 months to stay in compliance with all the various county, state and national requirements,” he said. “But we’re going to do our very best.”

Biden said he is frustrated with the roughly 80 millions eligible Americans who remain unvaccinated. The delta variant of COVID-19 is killing about 1,500 people a day in the U.S.

“This is not about freedom or personal choice,” he said. “It’s about protecting yourself and those around you.”

Polis has also expressed frustration about vaccine hesitancy in Colorado.

“It’s just like, science solved this thing, but then people screwed up the solution,” he said Aug. 13 in a conversation with the creators of South Park.

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