During the last 18 months, Americans have confronted the global pandemic and corresponding economic crisis with ingenuity and innovation. And now, because scientists worked around the clock to build on years of research, we have safe, effective, and free vaccines that can kickstart our economy and get us to the other side of this pandemic once and for all.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that we have the solution in hand, we are still facing real economic and public health threats from COVID-19. We’ve seen how a virus that began on the other side of the world can completely shutter a small family business in New Hampshire. From sick workers to customers reluctant to risk exposure, businesses have been battered by this pandemic, struggling to stay afloat. It’s imperative that we decisively act so that Americans - whether business owners, employees, or consumers - can get past this pandemic.
To return to normalcy, support small businesses, and grow our economy, we need to come together, and the science is clear: the best way to get back on track is to increase vaccinations, which is why I support new rules that require employees in large and mid-size businesses to have regular COVID tests or get vaccinated. This isn’t a new idea. Since the beginning of our nation’s history, we’ve battled the spread of disease and illness through vaccination requirements — from George Washington requiring his troops to get the smallpox vaccine during America’s founding to the requirement that children receive the Polio vaccine — Americans have seen and understood the threat that pandemics pose to our way of life, economy, and ultimately our freedom. I believe getting vaccinated or being tested regularly is an act of patriotism – one of the things we all can do to protect our fellow citizens and, quite literally, the health of our great country.
Today, every state in the country requires certain vaccinations for children to protect their health and prevent outbreaks that can cost lives and hurt our economy, and our military requires a wide range of vaccines for service members, ensuring the health and readiness of our armed forces. Businesses too have long been required to provide safe and healthy workplaces. In 1970, a Republican president created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to set and to enforce workplace health and safety standards for protection against workplace injury.
This month, President Biden outlined his plan for large-and-mid-size companies to either require COVID-19 vaccines for workers or to utilize weekly testing. The science is clear - getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible is the quickest way to defeat the pandemic. But you don’t need to be a scientist to understand that growing our economy is only going to be possible if we defeat the pandemic. Vaccines aren’t just for the health of people, but our economy too.
Even before the President’s announcement, businesses in New Hampshire were already leading the way. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hospital, the largest private employer in the state, announced its requirement of vaccines for workers last month. Mascoma Bank, one of northern New Hampshire’s top community banks with more than 300 employees, has also announced a vaccine or testing requirement for workers. From the small businesses in New Hampshire to our nation’s largest employers like Walmart and Disney, employers know vaccines are the path forward to economic growth.
We must do more to take on COVID-19 so that our businesses can thrive and we can save lives. Vaccine and testing requirements are common sense. Our businesses in New Hampshire feel the repercussions of the pandemic on their workforce and bottom line every day. From Nashua to Pittsburg, it’s time we get our economy back on track and fully reopened.
Sen. Maggie Hassan serves New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate.