By Brooke Thomson
Companies from Facebook to Walmart to Google have begun to mandate that their employees get vaccinated to protect against COVID-19. Restaurants throughout the state have also started to require that guests provide proof of vaccination before eating indoors.
As the Delta variant causes COVID-19 infections to increase throughout the country, there is increased pressure on businesses and employers to protect their employees and customers.
Businesses have an important role to play in addressing the health and economic impacts of this crisis. Our businesses have stepped up in amazing ways in the name of public health during the past 18 months. They have enforced masking requirements, shifted to remote and online commerce, closed down to the public, and been on the front lines of the pandemic.
Now, they are again being asked to take responsibility to stop the spread.
But should businesses alone be in charge of leading on public-health emergencies? While federal, state, and local governments took difficult and important steps to protect public health during the pandemic, government leaders now appear to have taken a back seat, relying instead on the private sector to solve public challenges.
A core duty and primary function of any government is to protect the public’s health and safety. The pandemic highlights the need for governments to take their duties seriously. Our elected officials should provide leadership driven by science and evidence, not partisan politics.
State leaders have an opportunity right now to demonstrate this leadership by adopting statewide mask requirements, limiting gatherings in dangerous situations, and providing guidance for businesses to operate safely. Businesses should be focused on their employees and their customers and take their direction on public health and safety from the officials we elect to guide us.
Leaving public-health decisions to private businesses is not the right answer. It is the duty of state and local governments to protect our health. We need leadership on the pandemic to support our businesses and employers.
Brooke Thomson is executive vice president of Government Affairs at Associated Industries of Massachusetts.