Luzerne employers respond to new vaccine mandate

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LUZERNE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — President Biden announced sweeping new orders for employers with more than 100 workers to mandate vaccinations against COVID-19 or offer weekly testing.

Local employers have questions as they begin to implement this policy.

This mandate has created another worry for large businesses employers like Gerrity’s, who say they need more direction when it comes to the new rules.

“We need a lot more direction to really understand how we would be expected to implement this. How we would be expected to police it with our employees,” said Gerrity’s Supermarket co-owner Joe Fasula.

Fasula says Gerrity’s Supermarket falls under the new rules. The local chain has 1,100 employees across its nine stores in two counties.

Though more than 70 percent of their employees 18 and older are vaccinated, Fasula says he’s worried this mandate would cost him to lose workers to smaller companies.

“We’re already in such a bind for help, we’re advertising like crazy. We are offering new hire bonuses, retention bonuses with existing employees. We can’t afford to lose anybody,” said Fasula.

Fasula says he could hire 100 more employees today and still not be at full staff. Another big question is who will pay for the COVID testing?

“We don’t know who’s going to be responsible for the testing. Is the testing even going to be available?” said Fasula.

Right now this mandate is only for private businesses, health care workers, and federal contractors.

The mayor of Wilkes-Barre says because it doesn’t include government entities or municipalities, they won’t be following suit.

“We’re not mandating it now. We don’t feel it applies to municipalities, so at this time we are not going to be initiating,” City of Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown said.

There are more than 250 city employees. Mayor Brown tells Eyewitness News that city officials meet every day with the city’s Health Department for a COVID update.

The Biden administration has not released a set date on how soon this mandate takes effect.

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