Local government, businesses weigh in on President Biden’s new COVID mandates

Memphis, Tenn. — Employers across the Mid-South are looking into implementing President Joe Biden’s request to require employees to roll up their sleeves or get tested regularly for COVID-19. 

Thursday President Joe Biden instructed all employers with more than 100 workers to mandate vaccines or weekly testing.

SEE MORE: Mid-South governors, lawyers react to President Biden’s new vaccine mandates

Brandon Williams, a Behavioral Health Therapist at St. Francis Hospital, the only hospital in the Memphis area not requiring the vaccine for employees, doesn’t completely agree with the president’s approach.

“We’re hands-on with patients, right there with patients,” said Brandon Williams,  Behavioral Health Therapist. “I think everyone should be vaccinated, but you can’t force that on people.”

At Classic American Hardwoods, CEO Bill Courtney feels a similar way about the president’s new vaccine mandates.

“I think it’s stupid not to get vaccinated, but I don’t think the government has the right to force you to do it,” he said.

Courtney said the safety of his 125 employees is the top priority.

“Not getting vaccinated I think is irresponsible for those around you who may be at higher risk,” he said.

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While Courtney is in favor of the vaccine, he’s not in favor of President Biden’s new vaccine mandate, which requires employers with more than 100 employees, like Classic American Hardwoods, to mandate the vaccine.

“It’s horrible to put a person in a position where they may have to choose between their body, their choice and their income,” he said.

Courtney said he never forced his employees to get the vaccine, but he has had several conversations with them about why it’s important.

A few months ago, he even held a vaccination event on-site for his employees. He said about 80 percent of his staff has gotten the shot.

“Since the second shot of that vaccination event, which was six months ago, we haven’t had a single employee miss a day of work due to COVID,” he said.

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As far as employment goes, University of Memphis Law Professor Steve Mulroy said that he doesn’t expect to see many people leaving their jobs, regardless of any vaccine mandates.

“There are some people that feel very strongly about the vaccines, but most people need their jobs,” said Mulroy. “I’d be surprised if we saw a mass resignation because of this, but that would be up to each individual person.”

Meanwhile, some of Shelby County’s largest employers like Terminix and The City of Memphis are reviewing the guidelines and withholding judgment for now.

A City of Memphis spokeswoman said Mayor Jim Strickland and his team are reviewing to see what, if any, adjustments will need to be made.

If approved, more than 8,000 people will be affected.

SEE MORE: Mid-South parents, local school leaders react to President Biden’s call for new COVID mandates

A spokesperson for Terminix gave FOX13 the following statement.

“There is still a lot to be defined with this news, so we’re going to wait for the final ruling.  In the meantime, Terminix maintains a deep commitment to a safe and healthy work environment for all our teammates and the customers we serve – and to take the necessary safety precautions.”

How this will affect local businesses also remains to be seen, according to the Greater Memphis Chamber.

The Chamber said it’s too early to tell how this mandate will affect Memphis businesses, but they are closely monitoring the situation and will provide updates to the business community when they can.

SEE MORE: Biden’s vaccine rules ignite instant, hot GOP opposition

What was made immediately clear are the feelings of Tennessee Governor Bill Lee.

Lee tweeted out shortly after Biden announced the new COVID-19 mandates, saying that “the vaccine is the best tool we have to combat the pandemic, but heavy-handed mandates are the wrong approach.”

If the president’s plan holds up, it could affect more than 4,000 companies and nearly two million workers across Tennessee.