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Universal employees must be vaccinated or tested for COVID weekly, starting in February

Katie Rice, Orlando Sentinel on

Published in Business News

Universal Orlando has updated its company vaccination policy in accordance with federal guidelines, and under the new requirements employees who have not been fully vaccinated by Feb. 9 will have to undergo weekly COVID testing and mask up.

In a message sent to Universal workers Monday evening, Universal Parks & Resorts’ Executive Vice President John Sprouls said the policy was in compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Emergency Temporary Standard.

In the message, Sprouls said 93% of Universal employees have shared their vaccination status with the company, and an unspecified “majority” of the resort’s workers are fully vaccinated.

Universal began requiring employees to disclose their vaccination status with the company in August but has not mandated the vaccine.

The federal standard took effect Monday and requires companies with 100 or more employees to mandate worker COVID-19 vaccination or require unvaccinated employees to undergo weekly COVID testing and wear masks. It has been delayed in 25 states, not including Florida, by federal court orders and challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court.

OSHA will start issuing citations for companies not in compliance on Feb. 9.

Universal’s updated policy mirrors the federal standard. Employees must disclose their vaccination status and proof of vaccination, if applicable, to the company immediately. Workers who are not vaccinated by Feb. 9 have to follow a “strict” weekly COVID-19 testing schedule and continue wearing face coverings, Sprouls said.

Universal Orlando spokesman Tom Schroder said the company will initially offer free, on-site COVID testing for employees.

“(We will) evaluate this as we move forward,” he said in a statement.

 

The company will also monitor potential changes to the regulations and “adapt accordingly,” Schroder said.

Universal is encouraging employees to get vaccinated and receive a booster shot, Sprouls wrote.

“We strongly believe that vaccinations are the most powerful step we can all take to move us out of the pandemic,” he wrote. “... We will continue to take a balanced and thoughtful approach to our decisions. That is why we have made the initial decision to allow for the testing option as we feel this aligns to our Team Member First approach by allowing our Team Members to make an informed personal decision.”

The resort started allowing fully vaccinated employees to go without face coverings at its parks in November but reinstated an indoor mask policy for staff and visitors last month.

Disney paused its employee vaccine mandate in November in response to state legislation limiting employers’ abilities to carry out vaccine mandates.

A bill signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis Nov. 18 requires employers to allow workers to forgo vaccination if they agree to regular testing and wearing protective gear. Employees who have recovered from COVID-19 are also exempt from vaccine mandates.

Universal employees seeking vaccination can schedule it at Walgreens through Universal’s TeamCare center, Sprouls wrote. The resort is also hosting an employee vaccination and booster event Jan. 18 through 20.

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