A vast majority of the nation’s small businesses haven’t required their employees to get COVID-19 vaccines or be tested to return to work, although there were significant differences across sectors, a government survey shows.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey, released last week and based on data collected from some 25,000 respondents from Feb. 15–21, sought to measure the effects on small businesses of changing operating conditions during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Besides questions on how overall business has been affected by the pandemic, the survey also asked whether the business required its workers to test negative for COVID-19 and whether employees were required to provide proof of vaccination before physically coming to work.
Nationwide, 70.1 percent of businesses said they don’t require a negative test, while 10 percent said they do, and 19.9 percent replied “not applicable, this business did not have employees physically coming to work in the last week.”
Regarding proof of vaccination, 78.4 percent of businesses said they don’t require it, while 2.2 percent said they do, and 19.4 percent replied “not applicable, this business did not have employees physically coming to work in the last week.”
Granular data showed significant differences across sectors, however, both in testing and vaccination.
Health care was by far the largest sector requiring a vaccine, with 4.9 percent of its respondents checking that box, followed by accommodation and food services (2.4 percent), and construction (2.3 percent).
Also leading the field in testing requirements was the health care sector (15.5 percent), followed by construction (11.7 percent), and manufacturing (11.3 percent).
The results of the survey come as the U.S. vaccination drive is picking up speed and a third vaccine is on the way.
As COVID-19 vaccine shipments to states are ramping up, nearly 20 percent of the nation’s adults have received at least one dose and 10 percent have been fully inoculated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Johnson & Johnson’s newly authorized one-shot vaccine has started shipping, with nearly 4 million doses dispatched over the weekend. The company expects to deliver about 16 million more doses by the end of March and a total of 100 million by the end of June.
At the same time, states eager to reopen for business are easing restrictions. Massachusetts on March 1 made it much easier to grab dinner and a show, while Iowa’s governor recently lifted mask requirements and limits on the number of people allowed in bars and restaurants. The two biggest metropolitan areas in Missouri—St. Louis and Kansas City—are relaxing some measures, and Chicago’s mayor announced that indoor restaurants and bars could start operating at increased capacity.
Concerned about easing restrictions, the head of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, on March 1 warned state officials and ordinary Americans not to let down their guard, saying she is “really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures that we have recommended.”
“I remain deeply concerned about a potential shift in the trajectory of the pandemic,” she said. “We stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground that we have gained.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.