Arvest Bank

Shown is Arvest Bank in Norman. Businesses with 100 or more employees are waiting on direction from the Department of Labor regarding vaccination and testing requirements.

NORMAN — Some businesses with 100 or more employees in Norman are taking a wait-and-see approach to President Joe Biden’s recent announcement regarding testing and vaccination requirements.

Last Friday, Biden announced he is directing the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to mandate businesses with 100 or more employees require a weekly negative COVID test or a vaccine.

Business leaders say they are not rushing to implement any requirements, but will instead wait for further federal guidance in hopes that it answers questions they have.

The city on Wednesday reported 559 new COVID-19 cases over the previous week, bringing its active cases at the time to 919. Four deaths from the virus were reported in the city in that time, bringing the city total to 212, according to Oklahoma State Department of Health records.

COVID vaccines have been 71%-93% effective against hospitalization from the virus depending on which vaccine is administered, a Friday report from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.

Scott Martin, president and CEO of the Norman Chamber of Commerce, said businesses in town are concerned about the overall impact the mandate would have on their operations. He said prior to the order, some businesses had already implemented vaccine incentive programs and provided easy access to vaccinations through pods and time off to get them.

“In general, this kind of heavy handed mandate is never well received, and there’s so many unknowns,” Martin said.

Martin said some of those unknowns include who the ruling would cover and who pays for the time required to get employees tested that wish to remain unvaccinated. He said the chamber, like the businesses, is waiting on more details, either from the White House or from OSHA.

Rob Keys, public and media relations manager for Arvest Bank, said before moving forward, bank leadership is waiting for the Emergency Temporary Standard from OSHA that will define their responsibilities.

“We believe that could take several weeks, and in the meantime, we are assessing our resources and options for implementation,” a statement reads.

Sam Caruso, general manager at Thunderbird Casino, said they are also waiting for the president’s directive. He said the casino needs more information about how businesses are expected to comply with the directive.

He said there are concerns about the mandate creating issues with employee privacy and increasing the casino’s budget.

“For example, if out of the 170 employees that I have, if 70 of those have not been vaccinated and don’t want to be vaccinated, I’m going to have to test them, and that’s going to cost some money,” Caruso said. “There’s a bunch of issues we’ll have to look at.”

Caruso said the casino is consulting their legal resources as they wait for more direction from the executive branch.

“Then of course we are waiting on the tribe itself, because they will make the final decision on how we handle this issue on our end in the future,” Caruso said.

Additionally, Martin said some businesses with fewer than 100 employees have considered the possibility of implementing a mandate for all private businesses.

Jeff Elkins covers business, living and community stories for The Transcript. Reach him at jelkins@normantranscript.com or at @JeffElkins12 on Twitter.

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