By: Tejay Cleland, Editor-In-Chief
Newman University’s president says she is not sure yet how the vaccine mandate announced on Nov. 4 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will affect the school.
The federal mandate says that employers who have 100 or more employees must ensure all of their workers are fully vaccinated or test for COVID-19 at least once a week. But after it was issued, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt signed onto a lawsuit challenging the mandate.
Newman President Kathleen Jagger said that Newman is preparing a plan to enforce the mandate.
“We have prepared a new policy if we move to that point,” Jagger said. “The legislation now says everything except the vaccination has to be in place by December 5, and then by the first week of January, people have to be vaccinated or tested.”
The vaccine mandate would apply to all Newman employees, including adjunct faculty and student workers, Jagger said.
The policy also requires that all employees must report their vaccination statuses to their employers. Currently at Newman, employees report their statuses on a voluntary basis.
Jagger said she expects staff to be responsible to stay healthy during this time, but if the mandate is put in place, Newman will follow the requirements.
“Everyone on campus wants to be in a healthy environment,” Jagger said. “So we'll comply with the legislation insofar as we need to. And people can make mistakes, but OSHA has said if people refuse to be both vaccinated and tested, then they need to be terminated. And that could happen.”
Jagger said if the OSHA mandate is successfully challenged, Newman may consider enforcing a vaccine mandate anyway.
“We’ve been talking about it since before the vaccine even came out,” she said.
If the mandate went into effect and caused vaccination rates to rise at Newman, the mask policy would likely still not change right away, Jagger said. It would be revoked only if Sedgwick County transmission rates drop.
The current vaccination rate for staff, faculty and students is at approximately 69%. The university has previously stated that if that number reaches 75% the mask policy could be revisited.
To schedule a COVID-19 vaccine, visit www.sedgwickcounty.org/covid-19/vaccine/scheduling
PHOTO: File Photo