New York state’s COVID-19 restrictions were lifted this past week which demonstrates the progress being made in the fight against the disease. As restrictions have been incrementally lifted, we are starting to see our economy heal and a wide variety of programming and events begin to return. 70% of all New York residents eligible for the vaccine have received at least one dose. To continue this positive trend that has enabled our economy to reopen and given us security in knowing we can start to gather with friends and family, we must continue to be cognizant of the fact that a large portion of our population has not yet been vaccinated. Most Western New York counties, remain below the threshold of having 70% of eligible residents vaccinated. As we witness our economy recovering and a return to some normalcy in our day to day lives, we must recognize that there is still work to do to protect our own health, the health of our families and neighbors, the health of our co-workers, and the health of our economy and our nation.
Tuesday’s announcement by the governor marked a turning point for the pandemic. While the virus has not disappeared, the number of vaccinated individuals is moving us all closer to herd immunity to help repress the spread. New York State suffered an early and difficult blow from the Coronavirus. The fact that as a State, we have reached the 70% of eligible population vaccinated threshold ahead of schedule is very positive news in terms of both our health and an economic recovery. Also, working in favor of the fight against COVID-19 is that the vaccines have been found to be effective against the variants, keeping in mind certain variants have been found to be even more transmissible and to cause more severe illness.
With restrictions lifted, businesses and non-profits still have control over their own situations. If a business chooses to continue to require masks they may do so. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has clearly stated – and it has now been held up in a federal court – that business entities may require that their employees get vaccinated. Employers may also incentivize their employees for getting vaccinated – as long as the incentives are not seen as “coercive” and as long as they are applied evenly across the full pool of employees.
Some restrictions remain. Masks are still required indoors for all non-vaccinated individuals, and masks are still required for all (whether you’re vaccinated or not) at Pre-K through 12 schools, healthcare facilities, nursing and congregate living homes, and on public transportation.
Certain COVID restrictions remain in effect for large-scale indoor event venues that hold more than 5,000 attendees. Proof of vaccination can be used to eliminate social distancing and remove masks for those who are fully vaccinated. Those who are not vaccinated or who are over the age of four must continue to present proof of a recent negative diagnostic COVID-19 test result and wear masks inside the venue. However, social distancing can be reduced or eliminated between tested attendees, allowing venues to reach 100 percent capacity in all sections.
All businesses and organizations may ask about vaccine status even if they are not a large venue. They can ask employees and they can ask patrons. It is not a violation of the Health Insurance Privacy and Portability Act to inquire about a vaccination status. HIPPA language applies only to healthcare providers which may not disclose your medical information.
The Chamber of Commerce and MAST continue to encourage all local residents to get vaccinated. COVID-19 continues its presence among our communities and creates variants where it finds unvaccinated hosts – creating versions of the virus that spread more rapidly and can cause even more severe illness. Getting vaccinated will keep you, your family, and your community healthy and safe. The vaccine is safe, effective, and free. At 95% efficacy, the vaccine is extraordinarily effective at protecting you from the virus. The vaccines have been thoroughly tested and now everyone aged 12 and over is eligible to take the vaccine.
To find a provider convenient to you, check out the Chautauqua County Health Department website, or visit vaccinehound.org/Chautauqua or The Chautauqua Center website at tcchealth.org.
As the restrictions are being lifted, please think about our business community and their front line workers and do the following: 1) support our local businesses that have worked hard over fifteen months under challenging circumstances; 2) be patient and understanding with any rules a business may establish; 3) if you’re not vaccinated wear a mask indoors; and 4) get vaccinated if you haven’t already.
TUESDAY TALKS JUNE 22: WORKFORCE NEEDS AND DEVELOPMENT PANEL DISCUSSION
In our continuing series of Tuesday Talks events the Chamber and MAST are pleased to present a timely topic that will benefit all local businesses: workforce needs and workforce development. We recognize that it has been challenging for some employers to fill vacancies recently across a variety of work environments, and that there may be numerous reasons for those challenges.
Join us for a panel discussion around this issue at 8:30am, Tuesday, June 22. Our guest panelists will be Katie Geise, Executive Director of the Chautauqua Workforce Investment Board; Melinda Mack, Executive Director of New York Association of Training and Workforce Professionals; Jim Parker of Digitell, a local technology company; and Dale Gier of Producto, a local manufacturer.
Our goal is to leave businesses not just with a better picture of the situation, but with some tips to help them move forward. This will be an online event. Registration is open now on our web calendar at www.chautauquachamber.org.
REGISTER NOW FOR THE CHAMBER CONGRESSIONAL LUNCHEON JULY 15
The Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce and the office of Congressman Tom Reed have worked to reschedule the annual Chamber Congressional Luncheon that was postponed earlier this year. The new date is July 15 and the Chamber of Commerce will run this as a hybrid event: those who wish to attend in person may join us for lunch at the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel, 10 Dunham Avenue in Celoron; and those who prefer to watch the event online may do so via Zoom Webinar.
The cost is $25 for a special stuffed chicken breast with Beurre Blanc, $20 for the Orchard Harvest Salad as a vegetarian/gluten free option, or $5 to view the event online. Please register online before July 9 if you are attending in person. Registration is open now via the Chamber’s Events Calendar at www.chautauquachamber.org.
The Chamber’s Congressional Luncheon is sponsored by Advanced Manufacturing Technology, Chautauqua Institution, Forecon, Jamestown Mattress Company, Media One Radio Group, OBSERVER, The Post-Journal, and UPMC Chautauqua.
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