Central Virginians split over Biden's sweeping vaccine mandates: 'It's a little scary'

Posted at 11:43 PM, Sep 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-10 07:58:20-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- As news of President Joe Biden's six-pronged plan to get more Americans vaccinated and fight COVID-19 spread across Central Virginia Thursday, residents, business owners and local leaders had a vast range of reactions.

As a small business owner of 40 years, Jim Bland, Owner of Plan 9 Records in Carytown, said he was thankful he and his team of seven, were all already in agreement.

"We feel strongly about getting vaccinated," said Bland. "So, fortunately we didn't have to say, 'hey look, you have to do this or that.' Everybody here was on the same page."

But soon, mandating the vaccine may be a reality for countless larger employers across the country.

"We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin," said President Biden in an announcement Thursday.
As part of his six-step plan, Biden said not only will Federal Executive Branch workers and contractors be required to get vaccinated, but the Labor Department would be developing a rule in which employers with more than 100 employees will need to mandate the vaccine for workers or require weekly testing.

"I think it's a great idea," said Magda Rolfes, who was walking through Carytown Thursday. "I think putting the onus on each individual employer, it's a lot of effort for companies to make those decisions and to try to enforce it. So, I think having a consistent policy is a really good thing."

Rolfes said she works in management consulting for a large company, but used to serve in the Navy.

"Why wouldn’t we want to protect each other?" Rolfes said. "I guess I'm thinking also as a former military person. So in my mind, it’s just part of our jobs as being citizens, is keep each other safe."

Rachel Clevinger, another Carytown stroller, echoed that sentiment.

"I think it should be required, because in times like these you shouldn’t be thinking of just yourself," said Clevinger. "I just feel like it’s about safety at this point."

But Hanover resident Gillian Haynes saw the mandate as a violation of rights.

"The push for this kind of a vaccine mandate is -- it's an overreach... It goes against everything that we stand for as Americans as far as, you know, freedom and autonomy," said Haynes. "It's a little scary."

Haynes argued that a person's medical decisions should be just that — their decisions.

"There's reasons why people wouldn't want something injected into them, that are personal, because medical information should be personal," Haynes said.

In a statement Nicole Riley, Virginia State Director for the National Federation of Independent Business, expressed concern for local business owners saying in part, "Small business owners and their employees want to operate in a safe and healthy manner that allows them to stay open. Additional mandates, enforcement, and penalties will further threaten the fragile small business recovery.”

Meanwhile the Republican National Committee announced their intention to sue the Biden administration over the mandate saying they were "pro-vaccine" but "anti-mandate" and that, “when his decree goes into effect, the RNC will sue the administration to protect Americans and their liberties.”

But Governor Ralph Northam tweeted in favor of Biden’s plan Thursday saying, "Vaccines are the best way for us to get through this pandemic. That’s why we have required vaccinations for over 120,000 state employees — and it’s making our commonwealth safer."