Some of the Grand Strand’s largest employers don’t know how to implement Biden’s COVID-19 mandate

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 7:12 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Many restaurants, shops and hotels up and down the Grand Strand are small and locally owned, with most having far fewer than 100 employees.

But for businesses across the county that do have at least 100 people on the payroll, many still are not exactly sure what the Biden Administration’s new COVID-19 vaccination or weekly test mandate means for them.

The City of Myrtle Beach employs nearly 1,000 people, but city spokesperson Mark Kruea said they haven’t been tracking who is or isn’t vaccinated since vaccines rolled out,

“If this rule does come down from Washington, we’ll certainly comply with it,” he said. “We’re not in a position to pay a $14,000 fine for every employee who isn’t vaccinated. That would not be a good use of city money to be paying a fine to the federal government for something as simple as getting a vaccine.”

Still, companies like Horry Telephone Cooperative, one of the area’s 10 largest employers according to the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation, said they’re still reviewing the order. Coastal Carolina University also says they’re also not sure how to implement the plan despite employing around 1,500 people.

When it comes to schools, officials with the South Carolina Department of Education said they don’t think the order applies to them.

While some are accepting the order, State Rep. Russell Fry said he’s opposed and wants to see legal action taken.

“Mandates are a lazy way of governing, this could be dealt with by educating people. We don’t need to be over reaching beyond the scope of authority,” said Fry, who represents the Surfside Beach area.

Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President Karen Riordan said she doesn’t believe the order will impact much of the Grand Strand.

“We are a community that’s made up of small businesses. In fact, 65% of the businesses that belong to our chamber are small defined as 10 employees or less. So this new OSHA ruling isn’t going to impact those workforces at all,” she said.

Hospital systems are also some of the largest employers in the Grand Strand.

Tidelands Health already decided to mandate employees get vaccinated earlier this summer. The deadline was September 7.

A spokesperson for Tidelands said two workers resigned ahead of the deadline, and one was fired for not complying. Conway Medical Center said moving forward they will comply with the federal government’s mandate.

“Conway Medical Center will follow all guidelines as set forth by [the] government in regards to vaccine mandates for employees,” a CMC spokesperson told WMBF News on Friday. “Ever since Dec. 14, 2020, when the first vaccine given in the state of South Carolina was to one of our physicians at CMC, we have strongly encouraged our employees to get vaccinated. A majority of our staff is currently fully vaccinated.”

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