Political and business leaders continued to review President Joe Biden’s “Path Out of the Pandemic” action plan on Friday.
The plan compels federal employees, federal contractors and most health care workers to get vaccinated and obliges large private employers, with 100 or more workers, to require workers to get the vaccine or take a weekly Covid-19 test.
The president wants governors to mandate the vaccine for school employees and is asking operators of large sports and entertainment venues to require proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test for entry. Gov. Mike Dunleavy put out a statement on Friday condemning forced medical procedures.
The majority of businesses in the Fairbanks North Star Borough have fewer than 100 employees, and the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce president and CEO said few companies will be impacted.
The Fairbanks area boasts two large public venues, the Big Dipper Ice Arena and the John A. Carlson Community Center. Both are operated by the Fairbanks North Star Borough.
Borough Mayor Bryce Ward has not decided if he will answer the president’s call to require patrons to disclose their vaccination status or provide a negative Covid test.
“We are waiting to see the guidance when it comes out and the timelines. I won’t have anything else today,” Ward wrote in a text message.
The next big event on the Carlson Center’s schedule is the Blue v. Gold Nanook Hockey Game on Sept. 24. The Fairbanks Ice Dogs hockey team is scheduled to play the Kenai River Brown Bears at the Big Dipper Ice Arena on Oct. 1.
Jinnel Choiniere, president and CEO of the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce, said she participated in a briefing about the “Path Out of the Pandemic” with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Friday.
“They have the policy experts who are really digging into what does this really mean,” Choiniere said. “I know that they are in conversations with the administration, with the agencies that are carrying this out.”
Government mandates are a burden on employers but so is the ongoing spread of the coronavirus, Choiniere said.
About 5-10% of the chamber members are large enough to be impacted by the new vaccine requirements, she estimated.
“There is just a lot of small employers in our area. I think many will not be directly impacted by the change,” Choiniere said.
The chamber CEO said she plans to pass on information to her members from the U.S. Chamber as she receives it.
Alaska’s governor joined a chorus of Republican governors who criticized Biden’s plan on Twitter. He called the Democratic president’s plan “ridiculous and unenforceable.”
On Friday, Dunleavy expanded on his opinion in a prepared statement.
“It is clear from the data and empirical evidence over the last year that the vaccine is the most effective way to fight Covid-19. From what we are seeing in our hospitals, the very ill are mostly those who are unvaccinated. As governor, and as someone who had Covid and has been vaccinated, I will continue to recommend that Alaskans speak to their healthcare providers and discuss the merits of the vaccine based on their individual healthcare needs.
“With that said, President Biden’s attempt to force vaccinations is ill-conceived, divisive, and unAmerican. At a time in which we are called to work together, forced medical procedures run counter to our collective sense of fairness and liberty. My administration is aggressively identifying every tool at our disposal to protect the inherent individual rights of all Alaskans.”