SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Hundreds of people not wearing masks packed a legislative hearing Monday to urge Utah lawmakers to fight President Joe Biden’s plan to require most workers to get either vaccinated or regularly tested for COVID-19.
The vast majority of people who attended the hearing in person criticized Biden’s plan, saying they fear it will infringe on personal freedom and cripple Utah’s economy. Sen. Curt Bramble said that about 600 to 700 people attended the hearing in person with another 200 who attended virtually.
The mandate would impact about 3% of businesses in Utah, but those companies account for more than 60% of employees in the state, according to figures provided by legislative staffers.
Last week, Republican Gov. Spencer Cox threatened to veto any legislation that blocks businesses from mandating employees to get the vaccine. He has said that he opposes government mandating vaccines but supports businesses implementing their own mandates.
Biden’s Sept. 9 announcement is expected to cover as many as 100 million Americans — private-sector employees as well as health care workers and federal contractors. Some mandates seem to have converted hesitant workers, but employers are still dealing with holdouts.
At United Airlines, for example, about 96% of employees have been vaccinated. About 3% sought an exemption and fewer than 1% will be fired, the company has said.
The COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. were tested on tens of thousands of people and have proven to be both safe and effective at dramatically reducing the risk of serious disease and death.
The vaccines now have been given to more than 200 million Americans and that real-world use plus extra government safety tracking have made clear that serious side effects are extremely rare — and that any risk is far lower than the risks posed by COVID-19.