RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said Friday he “will certainly look at” President Joe Biden’s request for states to mandate vaccinations for school employees but no change in state policy is imminent.
As part of a series of steps announced Thursday aimed at boosting vaccinations and curbing COVID-19 cases, Biden said more states need “to step up” when it comes to mandating vaccines for teachers and others working in schools.
Cooper said he wants to talk with Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt (R), the State Board of Education and local education leaders before moving forward with any changes to policies on vaccinations.
“We know it is so critical for those children to be in class in person, and taking all of these steps is the best way to make sure that gets done,” Cooper said. “All options are on the table.”
For now, Cooper said he’s focused on implementing the requirement that state employees under his authority either show proof of vaccination or get tested for COVID-19 at least weekly. That applies to more than 50,000 state employees. It’s unclear what percentage of them have been vaccinated, but Cooper anticipates having that information in about a week.
“Implementing our requirement for state employees to get vaccinated and verifying that is a chore. But, we are in the process of getting that done,” he said.
The North Carolina Association of Educators, which represents teachers, is encouraging school employees to get vaccinated. But, on Friday, a spokesman for the group said they have not taken a position on mandates.
Kristin Beller, president of Wake County’s chapter of the NCAE, said, “We want to do everything that we can to make sure that they have safe learning conditions. And, that means people who are able to should be vaccinated.”
A handful of school districts in central North Carolina already have mandated vaccines for employees, including: Orange County, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and Warren County, which is also mandating vaccines for student athletes.
School leaders in Wake County, the state’s largest school district, discussed the idea earlier this week but have not made a decision.
Oregon and Washington are mandating the vaccine for K-12 school employees.
Requirements for businesses
Cooper also weighed in on President Biden’s call for OSHA to develop an emergency rule that would require employees at businesses with at least 100 employees either to get vaccinated or get tested for COVID-19 weekly.
The governor has called on business leaders to implement that policy themselves.
“This is one of the best ways to get people vaccinated, is a positive thing. We’ll deal with the legal ramifications. But, I’m encouraging and have been encouraging businesses to do that here in North Carolina,” he said.
Labor Commissioner Josh Dobson (R) pushed back on the President’s plan. His agency would be responsible for enforcing that in North Carolina.
“It’s too early to say exactly how these proposed requirements may impact North Carolina. But preliminarily, Commissioner Dobson – though supportive of vaccines – does not support this type of excessive government overreach and intrusion,” wrote Jennifer Haigwood, a spokesperson for Dobson, in an email.