Businesses must lead pandemic recovery

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By Machelle Baker Sanders and Gene McLaurin

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, North Carolinians and our economy have faced unprecedented challenges. Now, as summer starts to fade toward fall in North Carolina, our children return to school, and we all attempt to regain some normalcy in our lives that has been absent for the better part of the last two years, we have a shared responsibility to help our state recover physically and economically.  

Even amid the pandemic and its challenges, North Carolina has continued to attract new jobs and new investment at a remarkable rate. To realize the promise of these investments, our state must rely on our business leaders to help us emerge stronger than before. 

It is clearer today than ever before that we face a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Our hospitals are overflowing more now than they have been at any point in the last two years, and the Delta variant appears to be more aggressive and contagious than earlier strains of Covid-19. With recent news of full FDA approval of at least one vaccine for Covid-19, we are urging business and non-profit leaders across North Carolina to consider requiring their employees be vaccinated. Consider implementing a vaccine incentive program. Continue requiring masks for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated. The first step toward a post-pandemic economic recovery is to get vaccinated.

Since full FDA authorization on August 23, companies including United Airlines, Walmart, Tyson Foods and Walt Disney have moved to require vaccination for their employees. Our higher education institutions are making difficult decisions to protect their students, staff and faculty, as well. Duke University is requiring all employees be vaccinated or face termination.

Other companies have related steps, like Delta Airlines requiring unvaccinated employees to pay a surcharge to remain on the company insurance plan. We’re also seeing more businesses require their patrons to be vaccinated in addition to wearing a mask. Taking these important steps now will help ensure we don’t have to return to the days of businesses being shuttered and the economy in shutdown.

Employers hold the keys to our economy in the months ahead. By requiring their employees to be vaccinated, businesses can ensure that our kids stay in school and day care, and that our workforce is healthy enough to continue working – and to return to the jobs that still need to be filled. We urge all North Carolinians to get vaccinated because we all have a role to play in defeating this pandemic and continuing to make North Carolina and our economy the envy of the world. 

Sanders is North Carolina’s Secretary of Commerce. McLaurin is chairman of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.

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