President Joe Biden announced a sweeping federal vaccine mandate Sept. 9, which will likely affect many local entities, including Northwest.
Under the mandate, all employers with over 100 employees must require COVID-19 vaccines for employees or require them to submit weekly testing.
Lt. MAmanda Cullin, a member of the Crisis Response Team 2, said the team and other officials at the University are consulting with medical and legal experts to determine what exactly this mandate could mean for Northwest.
“Right now, it’s a wait and see,” Cullin said of the actions of the team and Northwest officials.
Nodaway County Health Department Administrator Tom Patterson echoed Cullin’s statements and said everyone is just waiting for further details. CRT 2 is expecting more information to roll out from the federal and state governments in the next few weeks about the specifics of the mandate. Northwest will also communicate and look at what other local higher education institutions are doing, Cullin said.
It’s not known at this time whether the mandate will apply to Northwest’s student employees and its faculty and staff.
President of Mosaic - Maryville Nate Blackford compared this mandate to one Biden’s administration issued in August requiring staff at nursing homes to be vaccinated.
“They have still not received clear guidance on what that means,” Blackford said of local nursing homes.
Mosaic recently completed the first of its three-tiered vaccine mandate Sept. 13, which was the deadline for the first tier of employees, including new hires and contractors.
“We’ve had not a whole lot of pushback to that. Certainly, there’s been some, but by-and-large, folks have accepted and understood the importance of it,” Blackford said.
The next deadline for Mosaic’s mandate is Nov. 1 for tier two of its mandate, which includes providers and managers. Tier three’s deadline will be whatever deadline is set by the federal guidelines, Blackford said.
Current reported vaccination rates for Northwest students and employees have been “trickling upwards,” Cullin said. Chris Dawe, assistant vice president of health and well-being at Northwest, said as of Sept. 15, records show 37% of students and 59% of employees have shared vaccine information with the University — up 4% and 5% respectively for students and employees from Sept. 3.
“Getting yourself vaccinated, that’s the way we are going to overcome this,” Patterson said.
In terms of cases of COVID-19, Blackford said positivity rates are higher than he would like them to be heading into the fall. NCHD announced 51 new cases of COVID-19 between Sept. 7-14 for an average of over six per day during that span.
The Mosaic system had 241 positive cases identified in August, the highest amount in a month since December 2020. Blackford said he estimated roughly 10% of patients currently in the Mosaic system are there for COVID-19, with one such hospitalization.
As of Sept. 14, Northwest had 12 positive cases with 11 of them being off campus. Cullin said CRT 2 will continue to take a holistic approach to COVID-19 mitigation at Northwest and will pay close attention to case counts and hospitalizations in surrounding communities and universities.
“So as far as keeping people safe, especially on campus, it’s looking positive,” Cullin said.
Cullin reiterated previous statements and said she’s pleased with compliance with the on-campus mask mandate and CRT 2 will continue to evaluate the necessity of the mandate. The University of Missouri recently renewed its temporary mask mandate to extend to Oct. 15.