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Waiting on Clarification

Local businesses, agencies await direction regarding government vaccine mandate
Sunday, September 12, 2021
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Lincoln Parish businesses, healthcare providers and other agencies say they are waiting for clearer direction from the state and federal government to help them determine whether or not they fall under President Joe Biden’s stringent new COVID-19 vaccination rules.

Biden on Thursday imposed a vaccine mandate on all federal workers and contractors who do work with the federal agencies, with limited exceptions.

Other parts of the Biden plan include:

- Requiring private employers with 100 or more workers to compel those workers to be vaccinated or tested weekly.

- Requiring healthcare workers in hospitals, clinics and other facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid payments to be vaccinated.

- Requiring employees of Head Start early childhood education and other federal education programs be vaccinated.

“We’re working diligently on a plan, but we’re still seeking information,” India Carroll, chief executive officer of Ruston’s Green Clinic, said Friday. “We have more questions than we have answers.”

According to Louisiana Tech University’s Office of Communications, President Les Guice and other University of Louisiana System presidents were set to meet with ULS officials Friday afternoon to discuss how the new vaccine orders might affect the colleges.

The universities not only fall in the 100-plus employee category, but many also have contracts with the federal government.

Ruston-Lincoln Chamber of Commerce President Judy Copeland said her organization is not likely to take a position on the Biden plan. As of Friday morning, Copeland said she had not heard from any of the business group’s members asking questions or voicing concerns about the mandates.

Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home CEO RickWheat said he, too, is waiting on the supposedly forthcoming emergency rule outlining specifics of the vaccination plan for various types of facilities.

But “we’re acting as if it will apply to us,” he said.

Wheat said early in the pandemic the Centers for Disease Control and the Louisiana Department of Health advised the children’s home to mirror a long-term care facility insofar as implementing infectious control procedures was concerned.

He said about 50% of the LMCH staff is vaccinated, up from approximately 35% two weeks ago.

Meantime Lincoln Parish Administrator Doug Postel said he has not seen anything that would indicate the new mandates would apply to local governments like the police jury. The jury employs some 150 people.

Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker said earlier this week the city will not mandate that its employees receive COVID-19 vaccinations, but that he is looking at ways to encourage unvaccinated workers to get the shot.

Walker said Friday that’s still the city’s plan. About half of Ruston’s approximately 300 workers are vaccinated, according to city figures.

So far, Grambling is the only parish municipality that’s enacted a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. City workers there have to be vaccinated by Nov. 15.

The mandate makes allowances for workers who have pre-existing medical conditions and those with verifiable religious objections that deter them from receiving the vaccine.

Data from the Louisiana Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control show as of Friday, approximately 34% of eligible Lincoln Parish residents are now fully vaccinated.

Statewide, about 43% of Louisianans are fully vaccinated, according to LDH and the CDC.

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