By: KDKA-TV’s Andy Sheehan and Chris Hoffman
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — An appeal went out Wednesday to all Allegheny County businesses about the COVID-19 vaccine.READ MORE: City, County Employees Protest COVID-19 Vaccine Rules
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald asked that all businesses within the county require their employees to be vaccinated against the virus by Jan. 1, 2022.
“They are readily available for everyone to get them and we know how safe they are. We know how effective they are. And we know how they’ve stopped the spread of this deadly disease,” said Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald would like to see more vaccination both for residents and those who commute into the city and county. He praised companies and businesses who have already required the vaccines and is asking all the others to do the same.
He said the county is in “a war” against the virus.
“Who wants to send their child to a school where the teacher is unvaccinated? Who wants to go to a restaurant and be waited on by a waiter or waitress that is unvaccinated? Who wants to work in an office among people who are unvaccinated, spreading this deadly disease?” said Fitzgerald.
County officials cannot require vaccinations; however, the courts say that businesses can require it of their employees.
Allegheny County has a higher percentage of vaccinated people than surrounding counties, and by percentage, its COVID-19 numbers are lower. But for the past few months, the number of new cases has remained stubbornly high, averaging 467 cases a day over the past 14 days, so Fitzgerald is asking businesses to take this extra step of requiring their employees to get vaccinated.
BREAKING: Allegheny County Exec. Rich Fitzgerald will appeal to all businesses operating in the county to have their employees vaccinated by Jan. 1. Not an order but an appeal. @KDKA pic.twitter.com/s96lb8wNu5
— Andy Sheehan (@AndySheehankdka) November 10, 2021
Allegheny County is requiring its employees under the executive branch to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the beginning of November.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto issued an executive order this month, requiring all city employees to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 22. It includes anyone employed by the city, full-time or part-time and even interns.
The executive order cites CDC studies that show unvaccinated people are 4.5 times more likely to get infected and 11 times more likely to die.City Of Pittsburgh To Require COVID-19 Vaccines For All New Employees
Many small businesses didn’t want to talk on camera to KDKA because of the politics surrounding the vaccine. The couple that did said it’s about balancing personal choice and keeping people safe.
Yinzers in the Burgh owner Jim Coen wants to keep everyone safe.
“This is not something that’s normal. This is something that we have to as time goes on, figure it out,” he said about the pandemic.
Coen said he is vaccinated as are the majority of his staff, but he won’t mandate it for his store.
“We do recommend and we tell them, ‘you should get it.’ You don’t want to get sick,” Coen said outside his shop.
It’s the same across town at Henne Jewelers. President John Henne said he applauds the efforts by government leaders for COVID-19 mitigation.
“Personally we have encouraged and made it very easy for our employees to get vaccinated. The vast majority of them are,” Henne said over the phone.
Like Coen, he will not make his employees get the shot. He said it’s a personal choice.
“In a perfect world, I would want all of them vaccinated 100 percent, but I would have wanted them to have chosen to do that on their own,” Henne said.
Both he and Coen said this puts businesses in a tough spot. They want to keep everyone safe but don’t want to risk alienating their employees. Another challenge has been finding new help, and this limits the talent pool.
“These are complicated issues. We all want to work together the best we can, while at the same time respecting each other,” Henne said.
“To be honest with you right now, it’s very difficult finding employees in general,” Coen said.MORE NEWS: Allegheny Co. Executive Rich Fitzgerald Sets Dec. 1 Deadline For Employee COVID-19 Vaccinations
Coen is the president of the Strip District Business Association. He said there will be discussions on this recommendation.