September 15, 2021

Upcoming vaccine mandates may impact Wilco employers


New infections

 

Covid patients used 18.8 percent of hospital resources Sunday in Williamson and surrounding counties, back up from 15.6 percent on Thursday.

Eight ICU beds were open in the area on Sunday, and 515 total hospital beds were available. Data on the number of beds available in an individual hospital or in Williamson County itself are not reported.

The rate of new infections in Williamson County reached a recent low of 49.2 per 100,000 people on Saturday, and then increased to 51.4 on Sunday, health district data show.

This indicator is nearly 30 points below the highest-ever rate of new infections of 80.3 reported September 1. It is also nearly 50 points higher than the rate of around 2.0 reported in the county from May 27 to June 27.

The rolling seven-day average of positive Covid-19 test rates was 114 out of 1,000 on Sunday, down from 140 out of 1,000, the health district reported September 13. 

This indicator is down from around 187 out of 1,000 September 2, which was the highest rate reported this year. Between May 25 and June 26 the rolling seven-day average positive test rate did not increase above 20 out of 1,000.

The positive test-rate indicator on Sunday was below the rate the health district reported during most of August, but higher than the rate reported between early March and mid-July of this year.

By CHRISTOPHER DE LOS SANTOS

 

Larger employers in Williamson County may soon have to require employees get vaccinated for Covid-19 or report a weekly negative Covid-19 test before heading to the workplace. 

A Covid-19 action plan announced Thursday by U.S. President Joe Biden states that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is developing a rule that will impact all employers with 100 or more employees. The rule would ensure a “workforce is fully vaccinated, or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott called President Biden’s directive last week, an “assault on private businesses.” Mr. Abbott maintains that the decision to be vaccinated should be a personal choice Texans make for themselves and their families.

Williamson County governments and employers have not expressed concern over President Biden’s announcement of coming requirements.

Employers weigh in

Dell Technologies, a leading employer in Williamson County, is currently evaluating a Covid vaccine requirement for onsite employees and contractors — per the President’s plan — and how it would effectively roll a mandate out across the company, Talia Hill, a Dell spokesperson, said Monday. 

“We’re working on an approach that prioritizes the health and safety of our employees and customers. We will continue to be transparent about these decisions and communicate next steps, timed to any news on site re-openings,” Ms. Hill said.

One of Georgetown’s leading employers, Southwestern University, already requires all students and employees who are not vaccinated to test for Covid every week, Laura Trombley, president of the university, wrote in a policy letter on August 12. 

SU began requiring unvaccinated people to pay for their own Covid tests on September 1, the policy reads.

The campus goal is to have 90 percent of students and employees vaccinated. As of Friday, SU stood at 87.8 percent cumulatively vaccinated, with no new students reported sick with the virus that day.

Another leading Georgetown employer, Champion Site Prep, continues to encourage and incentivize the Covid vaccine for employees. 

Trey Taparauskas, president and CEO of Champion Site Prep, requires social distancing, equipment sanitizing and gives his qualified employees time off and a pay bonus for getting fully vaccinated.

“Although [getting the vaccine is] recommended and strongly encouraged by Champion Site Prep, we will not be mandating or requiring employees to unwillingly get the vaccination - unless and until it is the only option left before us,” Mr. Taparauskas wrote to his employees Friday.

City and county response

For local government agencies, the president’s plan does not apply. 

“[Williamson County is] a governmental entity that falls under the Governor of Texas, so we will continue to follow the Governor’s orders,” County Judge Bill Gravell said.

A spokesperson for the City of Georgetown said the city of Georgetown continues to encourage all city employees to get the Covid vaccine. 

“The vaccination requirement announced by President Biden applies to companies, but not local government agencies,” the spokesperson said. 

County vaccinations

Across Williamson County, data show 56.2 percent of the total population has been fully vaccinated for Covid-19. 

Covid vaccines continue to be available, without charge to patients, at commercial pharmacies in the county such as Walgreens, H-E-B, Walmart, Randals and CVS. 

Public health clinics make the vaccine available to those without insurance or without ID. Many pharmacies are requiring appointments again, as walk up customers are once more causing lines.

Williamson County and Cities Health District continues to place the county in “phase red,” reporting “uncontrolled community spread.”