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Some businesses say new vaccine requirement takes a step too far

Kevin Hancock of Hancock Lumber said his company doesn’t ask who is and is not vaccinated.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A day after President Biden issued new requirements for battling the surge in COVID-19 cases, some Maine business leaders say private businesses should not be forced to carry the burden for increasing vaccinations.

Among the mandates from the White House is a requirement for businesses with more than 100 workers to have all workers vaccinated or have those unvaccinated go through weekly COVID testing. 

Kevin Hancock of Hancock Lumber said his business employs 600 people and encourages vaccinations but thinks the new requirement goes too far. He said the company doesn’t know who is and is not vaccinated.

“We respect our employees’ right to make their own health care decisions, and we don’t ask (about vaccination) and don’t want to ask, but we may be made by the federal government to ask.”

Hancock said he will follow the new rules when they are imposed, but questions whether it's right for government to “segregate employees by government-selected health criteria."

Dana Connors of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce said Friday he had heard from a number of businesses with similar concerns. Connors said the new requirement will put a burden on business.

“Now they are the enforcer, there’s not a choice, not an incentive-based way as in the past.”

Asked if businesses want that role, Connors was emphatic.

“They do not want to be the enforcer,” he said.

Connors said he’s also concerned that the new federal mandate could cause larger businesses to lose employees.

“We are witness to a lot of people who, out of principle, clearly do not want to take the shot,” he said.

Connors added that some might not object to mandatory testing, but others could.

“And if you enforce it you run the risk of those opposed to a test or a shot going someplace elsewhere it's not required."