DAVIDSON COUNTY — In anticipation of this week’s hearings by the U.S. Supreme Court on federal vaccine and testing mandates, Davidson County Manager Casey Smith presented county commissioners with information and requested guidance.
The board of commissioners determined the best course of action would be to await any decision from the Supreme Court or lower court if the issue is kicked back to another court.
In September, the Biden administration released the details of a measure to ramp up vaccination numbers with an executive order that required employers with more than 100 employees to pick an option to either mandate vaccinations or testing. The requirements of large companies eventually stipulated they must mandate COVID-19 vaccinations by January or start weekly testing of their workers.
In November, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals stopped the implementation of the executive order. A month later, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling. At press time, the Supreme Court was scheduled to finalize a preliminary hearing on the lower courts’ rulings on mandates from the Biden administration.
Medical and religious exemptions are allowed in some specific cases, though Smith said the medical exemptions require proof of allergy to chemicals in the vaccines. Religious exemptions do not seem to be as stringent, the county manager acknowledged.
Fines associated with willful noncompliance are listed at “$13,600 per incident,” but county staff does not know if that means per employee or per record that isn’t valid. Those fines can escalate, with a maximum of $136,000 per incident.
“If this goes forward, I anticipate in this state and in this country a massive testing shortage,” Smith said. “Because there aren’t enough tests, as you know from watching the nightly news, to do this now, much less if this becomes real. So that’s going to be an issue. They know it, and I hope they take that into consideration.”
Based on the number of residents who are Davidson County employees, when compared to the vaccination rates in the county — somewhere around 50% — Smith pondered the possibility that hundreds of employees could be subjected to testing.
“We could be talking about 400-500 [out of 1,100 county employees] who are unvaccinated,” Smith said.
According to Smith, county commissioners, the sheriff and register of deeds office are exempt from any vaccine mandates. They are not considered part of “the personnel wing of this 100 employees,” Smith said. The Davidson County Sheriff’s Office has more than 100 employees, so some personnel at the sheriff’s office could fall under the umbrella of vaccination mandates.
Commissioners expressed concern over the possibility of massive numbers of county employees walking out or the potential of having to fire employees for noncompliance. The board, which recently reiterated by resolution that it would not enforce any such mandates, is hopeful it will not have to cross that bridge.
Commissioner Fred McClure stated his opposition to the vaccine mandates and said he hoped a resolution in the coming days would mitigate the strain on employers throughout the country.
“Hopefully the Supreme Court will say how unconstitutional this crap is,” McClure said.
Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at email@example.com.