COVID Vaccination Requirement Letter
From Fluor Idaho President and Program Manager Fred Hughes:
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have routinely shared my priority of preventing the spread of COVID-19 at work, and encouraged similar safe practices at home and in our community. In many town halls and meetings, you have heard me say I would not mandate a vaccine unless directed. To date all our efforts have had minimal impact as we continue to wear masks, socially distance and test on a weekly basis.
To date, more than 640,000 people have died in the U.S. For comparison, Idaho has about 1.8 million people in the entire state. And the 640,000 doesn’t include the millions who had COVID-19 but recovered, albeit many with long-term impacts.
We have all heard and seen on the news the that the surge in COVID cases is straining health care systems to the breaking point across the United States. The highly contagious delta variant is contributing to increased cases throughout Idaho, and southeast Idaho has frequently been a “hot spot” in the state, with the most cases per capita compared to other parts of the state.
Over the past few weeks, we have seen an upward trend in positive cases among our workforce. For the unvaccinated, COVID-19 can be severe and even life-threatening. During the pandemic many of our co-workers have been infected, many requiring hospitalizations, use of short- and long-term disability leave, and withdrawal from employment. We have lost three of our co-workers to this disease.
The current wave is infecting primarily the unvaccinated with an average age of 38 years, down from an average age of 48 just two months ago. The number of positive cases within Fluor Idaho has increased by 40 since mid-July. The number of confirmed COVID cases reported daily in Idaho has been around 1,000 per day since late August. We last saw numbers like these back in January. We are wearing masks and socially distancing at work again because the local area exceeds the criteria established by the government and is considered a high infection rate area. We are currently competing to be the highest hot spot in the U.S. A distinction I do not want to be recognized for.
We continue to assess our current practices and their ability to ensure the safety of our team. The FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine and consideration for approval of the Moderna vaccine shortly, provide us with the most effective tools to help ensure a safe work environment and better protect us from serious illness from the virus.
After much discussion with our customer and the Fluor Idaho leadership team, and based on the scientific evidence of the vaccines’ effectiveness in preventing serious disease and death, I have decided to mandate vaccination as a condition of employment for all members of the ICP workforce, including Fluor Idaho employees, sub-contractors, staff augmentation, teleworkers and new hires. We will implement this mandate in a phased approach:
- New employees hired on or after October 15, 2021, must be vaccinated against COVID-19.
- Current employees must be vaccinated by December 1, 2021.
Employees with a legal basis for exception to the requirement, such as a medical condition or religious exemption that prevents vaccination, will be considered on a case-by-case basis. If you have recently had the COVID-19 virus, CDC advises that the vaccine is still needed for your protection and should be taken as soon as you are released from isolation/quarantine, or 90 days after receiving convalescent plasma treatment. Details are being worked out and further communications will provide those details in the upcoming weeks.
This was not an easy decision. I respect people’s privacy and their right to choose what is best for themselves. But none of us can bury our head in the sand and just hope COVID-19 goes away. We have ample scientific data, and just like we address any workplace hazard, we use that data to develop the safest path forward. That path is vaccination against COVID-19.
We are not alone in this. Many of the other DOE sites, as well as many private companies, are adopting vaccination as a condition of employment. This allows them to pursue their mission while ensuring the safety of their workforce and community. This is also consistent with the new guidance coming from the Biden Administration.
I understand that the choice to receive a vaccination will be difficult for many of you. I strongly encourage you to discuss questions or concerns with your personal medical doctor or to consult with other trusted health providers.
I thank all of you for your understanding of this new requirement as we continue to fight this virus that has frustrated all of us for 18 months. I believe this approach will help ensure a safe and healthy work environment and will allow us to continue our critically important work for the DOE and the State of Idaho. Together, we can beat this.