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Federal vaccine mandate will impact Alaska’s biggest companies

Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 8:17 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - On Thursday, President Joe Biden’s administration released a new federal rule that will require businesses or companies with more than 100 employees to require them to be vaccinated against COVID-19, or face weekly testing. The deadline is Jan. 4.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration under the U.S. Department of Labor rolled out an emergency temporary standard that will enforce the rule first announced by Biden in September.

This news will impact Alaska’s largest businesses, including Alaska Regional Hospital which had not required its employees to get vaccinated prior to Thursday’s announcement by the federal government, but does plan on complying with the new mandate.

“We have plans in place based on processes, best practices, and knowledge gained from our sister hospitals in states that have already mandated vaccination,” said Alaska Regional Hospital spokesperson Kjerstin Lastufka in an email. “... We are working with our colleagues to assist those that have not yet received the vaccine.”

Lastufka also said the majority of the hospital’s staff has already been fully vaccinated.

While some businesses are falling in line, the Alaska Department of Law plans on fighting back, according to Communications Director Aaron Sadler.

“Pursuant to the Governor’s administrative order, the Department of Law will challenge this mandate, and we expect to take action after the rule is formally published on Friday,” wrote Sadler in an email to Alaska’s News Source on Friday.

Earlier in the week, Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued an administrative order pushing back against the federal mandates along with joining a lawsuit with several other states challenging the vaccine mandate as it applies to federal contractors.

The University of Alaska Anchorage’s Small Business Development Center Executive Director Jon Bittner expects the mandate to affect 1,000 to 2,000 of Alaska’s biggest employers that represent about half of the state’s workforce.

“So some businesses are going to look at this as a net win and some are not,” Bittner said. “The ones having trouble filling jobs are probably going to look at this as a net positive, the ones afraid they’ll lose employees less so.”

The new mandate does not require businesses to pay for testing, but Bittner imagines the new directive will have associated costs with productivity.

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