Downtown

The issue: 

Laws regarding reopening safely frequently change.

What we think: 

Businesses need to stay informed as Colorado outbreak continues.

Tell us what you think: 

Send us an email at editorial@csbj.com.

When it comes to looking out for one another, the numbers reveal Colorado and El Paso County still haven’t gotten their acts together. As of June 1, the county saw its positivity rate jump once again to over 8 percent, a week-over-week increase of an astonishing 71 percent. The incidence rate also climbed by 18 percent, according to El Paso County Public Health.

Colorado is one of only a handful of states where the virus is still spreading at an unacceptable rate, and these jumps are occurring as less than half of the state’s population is fully vaccinated. The increase also comes on the heels of the state lifting restrictions for large indoor gatherings just as tourism season is kicking off, bringing with it guests (some likely carrying COVID-19) from far-flung spots across the globe. And the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission just issued guidance as to how companies can mandate vaccines and incentivize returning workers to get them.

For instance, companies can require vaccines of employees returning to the workplace, but not those who work outside the office, according to the EEOC. 

“But doing so still counts as a mandate, so companies must give the same legally required considerations that companywide vaccine requirements would entail, like making accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act for employees who can’t receive the vaccine,” according to a report in The New York Times. “That means allowing for exceptions for those who may be unable to take the vaccine for health reasons, like an allergy.”

Rapid reopenings coupled with waning vaccination rates and debates over worker rights will create sticky situations for employers. Businesses, naturally, want to reopen as much as possible and as quickly as possible. They also, presumably, want to keep employees and customers safe. Until the spread of COVID-19 is brought to a halt in Colorado, businesses should consider taking additional safety precautions, like continuing to mandate masks in most cases and enforcing social distancing whenever possible. And businesses should incentivize employees — whether through bonuses, extra paid time off, or prize drawings — to get vaccinated. Employers will also need to ensure human resource departments are clear on employment law and that company policies align with state and federal laws, as both frequently change. 

Yes, everyone is in a hurry to get back to normal. But half of the population is still at risk for contracting COVID-19 and many could still become seriously ill. An outbreak among workers or customers won’t benefit anyone’s bottom line. So if employers decide they won’t or can’t require vaccinations, they should do everything else within their power to keep customers and employees safe while, legally, protecting themselves too.