Hampton Roads businesses react to president's vaccine mandate

Posted at 3:48 PM, Sep 10, 2021

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - "We've been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us. So, please - do the right thing," said President Joe Biden on Thursday.

Yesterday came a sweeping new vaccine mandate from the president requiring all employers with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccines or test them weekly.

"This notion of freedom that we should be free to make a dumb decision now that all data is in or a decision that harms others, I don't get," said Ben Unkle, CEO of Westminster Canterbury in Virginia Beach.

Unkle, who is in charge of the large senior living community on Shore Drive with 615 employees, says he is in full agreement with the president's decision. Unkle actuallyintuited mandatory vaccines last month for all employees ahead of the mandate.

"We had 85% of staff that did the right thing and got voluntarily vaccinated, and it was time for other 15% to join in," he said.

Hampton Roads Transit, a company with nearly 1,000 employees, also spoke to News 3 about the mandate.

"We will do everything we can to comply with the president's mandate, and we are waiting further direction on how to do that," said Tom Holden with HRT media relations.

Holden says only 52% of HRT employees are vaccinated, and they are now giving $500 bonuses for those who get the shot.

"We currently have incentives for employees to get vaccinated with giveaways and gift cards," said Holden.

Portsmouth resident Tyran Green drives for Amazon, one of the largest employers in the nation. She just recovered from COVID-19 and chose not to get vaccinated. Now, she's got to make a tough choice.

Related: Hampton Roads workers weigh in on Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate

"To be honest, at this point if they were going to release me because of it, I would go ahead and get vaccinated because I need the job," said Green.

The White House did not say when the mandate would take place. The forthcoming rule will come from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and it carries a $14,000 penalty per violation.

Click here for our full COVID vaccination guide.