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Wheeling-Ohio County Board of Health Urges Businesses To Require Employees To Be Vaccinated Against COVID-19

FILE - In this March 3, 2021 file photo, a vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is displayed at South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

WHEELING — Businesses in Ohio County are strongly encouraged to require vaccinations against COVID-19 among their employees, according to a recommendation from the Wheeling-Ohio County Board of Health, which came down Thursday.

The Wheeling-Ohio County Board of Health recommended that all employers and government organizations require their eligible employees receive full vaccination for COVID-19, according to a release. The board made its recommendation in light of the death toll of the coronavirus, which is strongly mitigated through vaccination.

“Ensuring workplace safety is an important goal of public health,” the release states. “The workplace should not be a place where individuals can be exposed to a virus that causes severe illness or death. Just as workplaces are smoke-free, workplaces should be virus free.”

Dr. John Holloway, chairman of the board of health, said Friday that the decision to recommend vaccine requirements is part of the board’s overall mission of public health.

“Part of public health is ensuring safety in the workplace,” he said. “…

“The COVID virus has caused terrible illnesses and has caused a lot of people to die from it — almost three-quarters of a million Americans have died of COVID,” Holloway said. “One place it can be easily spread is in the workplace. One person gets it, they’re in close proximity to other co-workers, they can spread it to everyone else in the workplace.

“The vaccine is incredibly safe, incredibly effective, and it can prevent the spread of COVID,” he added. “There are lots of workplace safety requirements, from a health perspective. Whether you work in an office or restaurant, a coal mine or a factory, there are safety requirements that are out there, and this is just one more.”

Holloway said he was unsure Friday if the board had the authority to require vaccines or to move forward with stricter requirements for businesses than a recommendation.

“We don’t have the authority to make that happen, at this time,” he said. “Part of the idea is to encourage employers to do this, and if an employer wants to institute this, we’re hoping that it gives them backup to say, ‘The board of health is saying to do this, so we’re going to.'”

Holloway drew from his experience practicing medicine to inform the decision, where he “highly, highly, highly” encourages patience to get vaccinated.

“Some are willing to do it when I explain it to them,” he said. “Others are, of course, adamantly opposed. There’s no question that if more people were vaccinated, there would be a lot (fewer) people with COVID, there would be more ability for all of us to be around each other. It would be safer not only in the workplace but everywhere else, and we may not need to wear masks as much.”

The recommendation comes as lawsuits have been filed in multiple federal courts seeking a halt to the Biden Administration’s mandate that all healthcare workers must be fully vaccinated to continue in their jobs. A federal court in Missouri issued a temporary injunction blocking the mandate for 10 states, while a federal court in Louisiana issued a temporary injunction blocking the mandate in the remaining 40 states.

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