No Vax, No Job? Employers and Employees Grapple with Vaccine Mandates

As COVID-19 numbers began to decline locally, following a Delta variant that caused a spike in cases at the onset of the school year, many employers and employees are grappling with whether to institute, or abide by, a requirement to be fully vaccinated against the virus.

President Joe Biden announced in early September the largest-scale mandate to date—all federal employees and contractors must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 22. The mandate will also extend to all private sector employers with more than 100 employees, with an option for weekly testing. The impacts of that mandate, with Loudoun a hotspot for federal workers and government contractors, has already begun its trickle-down effect.

It’s coming at a time, Loudoun Chamber of Commerce President Tony Howard noted, when the job market is as competitive as ever, sparking an interesting tug and pull between employer and employee when termination in lieu of vaccination is the consequence.

“Employers are very reluctant to impose [a mandate] unless the government makes them do it because we’re in such a war for talent nowadays,” he said. “Some industry sectors really suffered [during the pandemic] and are still recovering; others are doing quite well and are struggling to find talent. You don’t want to impose something on employees that would risk any brain drain.”

Howard, like others, noted that there are several factors in play for both imposing, and abiding by, such a mandate. Most who have imposed mandates allow exceptions for medical reasons or religious beliefs. Others offer the option of weekly testing and/or abiding by other COVID-19 safety protocols for those employees who choose to forego a vaccine.

The Chamber president himself recently imposed a vaccine requirement for his 11-person staff, who returned to the office in June following a 14.5-month closure during which the work completely remotely. He also announced in late August that the Chamber would require attendees at its in-person, indoor networking and educational events to be fully vaccinated, or show proof of a negative COVID test taken within 48 hours of the event.

Howard said he was expecting much more pushback from Chamber members and even his board of directors on the policy than he ultimately received. The policy led only to a “handful” of Chamber members leaving the organization.

“In the single digits,” he said. A number, he said, that was “dwarfed by the number of folks who thanked me for adopting the policy.”

Vaccine mandates locally have not always been so warmly received. Vocal resistance was heard during last week’s Leesburg Town Council meeting, when three Leesburg Police officers spoke up at a meeting and said many officers would leave the town force if the council went through on a vaccine mandate it was discussing for town employees.

Should Leesburg go through on enforcing such a mandate—a council majority favored a 90-day timeline for complying with the mandate, with no option for weekly testing—the officers warned the town could lose a sizable portion of its sworn officers.

Officer William Butterfield said the vaccine mandate would cause the department to have an even harder time attracting and retaining good officers, at a time when police departments nationwide are having difficulties hiring employees. He noted what the town would be losing if he left town employ, pointing to all the money Leesburg has invested in him as a member of the police department’s bike team and SWAT team, in addition to other certifications.

“I think we’re all big boys, grown adults, that can make decisions for ourselves,” he said.

Both Butterfield and Officer Josh Carter, who also spoke against the mandate during the Sept. 28 meeting, declined to be interviewed for this article.

Should the Town of Leesburg move forward with a vaccine mandate—with discussion expected to continue at the council’s meetings next week—it would join Loudoun County government, which has imposed a similar mandate for its thousands of employees. Loudoun County employees will be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing as a condition of employment, and can be exempted if they provide proof of vaccination. Loudoun’s constitutional officers also have the option to join.

Of the county’s top 10 largest employers, at least seven have mandated COVID-19 vaccines for their employees or are subject to Biden’s federal mandate. Included in that number is the county’s largest healthcare provider, Inova Health System, which was the first hospital system in the commonwealth to mandate vaccines for its employees.

All of the healthcare system’s employees, including its contractors and remote workers, had to have their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 1 and their second dose by Oct. 1, according to hospital spokesperson Renee Brohard. Of the healthcare system’s thousands of employees throughout the region, 89 chose not to comply with the requirement and were terminated, she said. That number represents 0.4% of the system’s workforce. There was no option for employees to receive weekly testing in lieu of a vaccine.

Fellow Loudoun hospital system HCA StoneSprings has not mandated vaccines for its employees, although many of them have voluntarily opted to be vaccinated, said Suzanne Kelly, StoneSprings Hospital’s director of marketing and communications.

“While at this time StoneSprings Hospital has not required its colleagues to be vaccinated for COVID-19, the majority of StoneSprings Hospital colleagues are fully vaccinated. StoneSprings Hospital helps ensure a safe environment by following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Inside our hospitals and other care settings, we continue to have universal protections in place requiring all staff in all areas to wear masks regardless of vaccination status. That includes requiring them to wear all recommended PPE, including N95 respirators,when caring for those with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection. In our non-care settings, we require unvaccinated staff to wear a mask,” Kelly said in a prepared statement.

The county, for its part, has expanded its twice-a-month COVID-19 testing events to weekly, beginning Tuesday, Oct. 12.

The drive-through events are scheduled for Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at alternating locations across the county.

“I encourage anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to COVID-19 to get evaluated and tested promptly, either privately or through one of the county’s testing events,” Loudoun County Health Director Dr. David Goodfriend said. “You should get tested if you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue and a new loss of taste or smell or if you have been potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19, regardless of their vaccination status.”

Goodfriend advised that while waiting for COVID-19 test results, “you should stay home and away from others if you have symptoms of COVID-19, regardless of your vaccination status; or if you have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 and you are not fully vaccinated.”

The testing events will move around to different locations each week, rotating among Claude Moore Park in Sterling, Philip A. Bolen Memorial Park near Leesburg and Franklin Park in Purcellville.

While, as of yet, local vaccine mandates have not led to widespread terminations or resignations, one local place of worship is providing a form letter for residents to document their religious objections to the vaccine. Cornerstone Chapel in Leesburg states on its website that it does not have an official stance on the COVID-19 vaccine but provides those with “personal and legitimate religious objections to a vaccine mandate” to use a PDF letter to provide to employers. The letter cites several Bible passages in making the case for a religious exemption.

“I am responsible to God for my body—how I treat it, how I use it, how I take care of it, and what I put into it. My body is considered a ‘sacred temple’ that is devoted to God for sacred purposes. I am to honor God with my body. It would be dishonoring to God for me to put something into my body for which I had a conscientious objection. Therefore, on religious grounds I believe I would be violating a sacred trust to honor God with my body if I were to allow the COVID vaccine to be injected into my body,” the letter reads in part.

The letter also provides a section for an optional pastoral signature. Cornerstone Chapel Pastor Gary Hamrick did not respond to a request to be interviewed for this story.

To see the schedule of free testing events and other places to get tested, visit loudoun.gov/covid19testing. Visit vaccines.gov to find places to get vaccinated.

This article was updated Oct. 12 at 2:55 p.m. to clarify the county government’s employee vaccination policy.

24 thoughts on “No Vax, No Job? Employers and Employees Grapple with Vaccine Mandates

  • 2021-10-07 at 1:05 pm
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    More people haven’t walked because this fascist edict isn’t wide spread. How come you aren’t talking about why Leesburg hasn’t voted for such draconian measures? Vax or be fired? No compromise? That doesn’t sound very legit. People who have had covid and recovered, which is the majority of the population, should have the option of keeping their job without the jab and without the weekly testing.

    Given that the county is less than honest in all forms of it’s current government, denying transparency of what is actually going on, purposefully hiding data, and being enabled by loudoun now, it’s no surprise that such a positive spin was put on this pig of a story.

    Loudoun Now’s fascism is apparent. If you aren’t goose stepping with them your the target.

    • 2021-10-11 at 11:04 am
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      Making me laugh. Trump is a close to fascist as we’ve come and you’re parroting his rhetoric to blast people working on public health…you can’t make this stuff up.

  • 2021-10-07 at 1:07 pm
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    I respect folks who don’t want a Covid vaccine. Like it or not, vaccine mandates appear to be the wave of the future. Next month, Los Angeles will begin enforcing an ordinance requiring folks to show proof of full vaccination before accessing indoor restaurants, bars, gyms, shopping centers, entertainment venues & personal care establishments. I’m fully vaxxed. I just hope they don’t require a booster jab every six months. That would be a bummer.

    • 2021-10-08 at 12:44 pm
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      Tim – Most of your posts push the Democrat agenda but oddly enough you HOPE 6 month boosters don’t become mandatory. Good luck with that.

      BTW – I’m vaxxed so I’m not opposed to it, I opposed the mandatory condition of it.

      • 2021-10-11 at 11:39 am
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        Do you enjoy the pandemic hanging around because not every realizes it’s important to do their part to stop the spread? Or do you just enjoy the freedom of having to wonder if that person coming up to you without a mask might be a carrier and you might take it home and infect your unvaccinated kids? Most everyone hates the idea of having to get a shot but you know what, most folks weigh the advantages and decide it makes the most sense. Glad these no-vaxxers weren’t around during World War II when collective action saved the West. We’d be speaking German and Japanese now I guess…

        • 2021-10-12 at 1:57 pm
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          Covid isn’t going away. Regardless of current vaccine technology and public health measures.
          If you are suggesting otherwise, provide verifiable sources that support that claim.

          Your understanding of transmission appears to be rather limited.
          ALL human beings may pass along the virus. Regardless of their “vaccination” status or prior infection or hair color or religion or whatever.

          There is virtually zero risk to children. STOP WITH THE SCARE TACTICS.

          As for bringing up WW2… imagine trying to fight a war for global control with people like you? Wanting others to stay at home forever and be afraid of their own shadows? Good grief.

  • 2021-10-07 at 1:10 pm
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    Chamber of Commerce – maybe you only got a small number of respondents, because of the continued backlash of anyone that disagrees?

    Public Safety – at the beginning there were a lot of public safety personnel that stood in line to get the shot. There are many that have stated to me recently, that based on their knowledge now, that they would not be getting the “booster” and wish that they had not gotten the shot already.

    I for one will continue to not get the shot and follow the science. While individuals may get sick and some may die, that is the same with many other illnesses, but we have not, NOR SHOULD WE, shut down our world.

  • 2021-10-07 at 1:26 pm
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    There are no mandatory vaccines for prisoners being held by the Virginia Dept of Corrections.

    Ask yourself why convicted criminals enjoy more human rights than law-abiding citizens?

    • 2021-10-07 at 10:14 pm
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      Ace – if you don’t Vax you lose your job. How would that apply to prisoners, no Vax you are released from jail?

      • 2021-10-08 at 1:13 pm
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        What’s the “stated” purpose of mandating the shot?

        We’ve got the government (Biden via executive action) going to great lengths to push FREE Americans into this shot, else they lose their source of income. Potentially their career.

        Prisoners are exposed to one another. And prison staff. And visitors. Why aren’t they being forced to take the shot?

    • 2021-10-08 at 9:48 am
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      This is a good question. When you are a convicted criminal and incarcerated the State is responsible for your health and well-being. The State is also not permitted to use prisoners for science experiments because it violates “cruel or unusual punishment.” That said, I believe if prisoners volunteer for it (e.g., terminally ill requesting experimental treatment) it can be done as long as appropriate legal measures are taken ahead of time including appropriate waivers and any required extra medical care, observation, etc.

      While the current vaccine is under the Emergency Usage edict from the FDA, it cannot be mandated for anyone in the military… nor can it be mandated for incarcerated individuals. If one of the vaccines or a new one is approved outside of this measure it will cause all kinds of problems.

  • 2021-10-07 at 3:49 pm
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    Not being vaccinated (except for medical reasons) should be more of a disqualifier than having a criminal record. At least the former felon was punished for their poor decision.

    • 2021-10-07 at 4:57 pm
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      I am SOOOOO glad your comment slotted in directly after mine.

      It just puts a really fine point on my point. Thanks!

    • 2021-10-07 at 5:13 pm
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      NoButz – So this is what we have become – I don’t agree with your decision, so you are automatically making a “poor decision”? So I should be punished because I made, in your opinion, a “poor decision?” So what is that punishment? I have to be shamed in front of the courthouse? I have to have my name plastered all over? What is the punishment?

      Really?!!! Give me a break! The science is not there for the mandatory shots. They are not a vaccination, if they were you would not have to get a booster! By the way if the side effects are making people sicker and there is no remedy for those that get sick from the shot or die? Why not, if it is safe, why should pharma not be held liable? What are the pharma companies hiding? What is the government hiding?

      I for one will not get the shot, I already have one of the side effects of the shot. So I don’t want to enhance the possibility that I am going to have further complications by getting the shot.

      By the way, I am okay with you having a different perspective than I do. I don’t believe you should be punished for having a different perspective.

      Also, I would agree, I don’t think that Loudoun Now provides both sides of the story. But that is their right. But don’t try to state otherwise. Again it is your right as a media organization to provide your slant on the stories.

  • 2021-10-07 at 4:37 pm
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    It’s a human right to choose what is put into our bodies. Simple as that! Forced medication is not the answer, good health is. Vaccines for COVID are NOT following the real science, there are enough explanations out there regarding the why and how. The real scary part is how many people are ignorant of how this works, and choose not to educate themselves. Just follow the power hungry greed of the politicians and do what ever they say!

  • 2021-10-07 at 5:04 pm
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    It’s so awesome, it’s mandatory! Who knew fascism would be so in vogue these days?

  • 2021-10-07 at 6:30 pm
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    I can’t believe it! Authorities are still acting as if the vaccine will keep you from getting the virus. We now know if you are vaccinated, you can get the virus or a variant and transmit it to someone else who is vaccinated or not. They should be reprimanded or fired for misleading the public.
    May we should wait for the Merck pill, especially if it has fewer side effects.

  • 2021-10-07 at 8:24 pm
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    It is interesting more people have died this year from Covid than last year and yet we have th vacine this year.

  • 2021-10-07 at 8:42 pm
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    I understand why many felt compelled to get the “shot” when they were first released. The media did an awesome job scaring people. But now as we see what’s happening in Israel and Vermont (both places with high vaccination rates) it’s clear that the shots aren’t a panacea. Only eight of the 33 Vermonters who died of Covid in September were unvaccinated. You read that right — 75% of the Covid deaths were fully vaxxed.

    The day this country can mandate forcing you to inject an experimental substance into your body is the day we cease to be America. Folks — they can’t fire us all. Stand firm. This isn’t polio or Ebola. And finally, think about this: if it’s really a pandemic, why are already short-staffed hospitals firing doctors and nurses who refuse the shot? Hmmmmmmm.

    • 2021-10-11 at 11:55 am
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      Your misinformation isn’t helping anyone with anything. You repeat scare stories from right wing media sources. Let’s just go with actual facts instead of third-hand repeating of news items from sources with a clear agenda (did you ever play telephone?).

      What you don’t mention is this: Deaths from the delta variant in Vermont have skewed toward older people who received their vaccines quite a long time ago. During the same period (and using this week’s data) unvaccinated Vermonters are requiring hospitalization with COVID at a rate 6 times that of vaccinated Vermonters. Roughly 72% of the people in Vermont hospitals with COVID are unvaccinated.

      So yes, you can get COVID from unvaccinated folks even if you’ve been vaccinated. It can be really bad if you’re older and your vaccine’s effectiveness is wearing off. All that to say these numbers are actually an argument to get vaccinated. It’s not –as you’ve tried to suggest–that a vaccine is pointless.

      C’mon, don’t let places like Citizen Free Press or Fox News be the only way you find out what’s going on.

  • 2021-10-08 at 1:43 pm
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    Get the vaccine or stay in your compounds. This “personal Freedoms” crap has got to end. We live in highly populated areas where a contagious person can infect many people very quickly. The vaccines are not perfect, but they are better than not. The problem is the same with every topic these days. There are enough crackpot theories out on the web that rational science can always be “refuted”. It shows maturity to say you were wrong, but many on the right just can’t grow up enough to do it.

    If Cheetohead runs in 2024, there might not be enough sycophants left alive to vote for him…

    • 2021-10-09 at 12:41 pm
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      NoButz — please back up your claim that “the vaccines are not perfect, but they are better than not.” The statistics coming out of Vermont, Israel and now Singapore are not “crackpot” theories. Those are the most heavily vaccinated areas and their infection numbers are soaring. Natural immunity is proving to be a better defense than the mRNA shot. The shot protects against one spike protein. Natural immunity allows you to fight ANY strain. If anything, the vaccines are setting people up for a myriad of health issues down the road (clots and myocarditis are the two biggest right now).

      Oh, and as for those “personal Freedoms” — if you think they’re crap, perhaps you’d enjoy living in Australia, where people are hunkered down in their homes, unable to work, and mass-tackled by gangs of roving “police” for not wearing masks outside. I think you’d love it there.

  • 2021-10-13 at 8:07 pm
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    The misinformation from the anti-vaxxers in this forum is overwhelming.

    • 2021-10-14 at 8:37 pm
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      JerseyGirl — please back up your claim regarding “misinformation.” What, specifically mentioned on this forum, is “misinformation”?

      Furthermore, what are you pro-mask and pro-mRNA shot people so afraid of? Why are you so adamant that we mandate experimental shots for a VIRUS with a recovery and survivability rate of greater than 99%?

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