City taking ‘wait and see’ approach to Biden vaccine requirement

‘We do have 100 employees or more, so I do think it will affect us’

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ROCHELLE — A COVID-19 vaccine mandate made by President Joe Biden on Sept. 9 stands to impact the City of Rochelle. 

The mandate calls for all employers with more than 100 workers to require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly, affecting about 80 million Americans. The move was made due to rising COVID-19 cases and stagnating vaccination rates. 

Rochelle City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh said the city has over 100 employees and from what he’s read, the requirement would affect it. 

“We're assessing the order and monitoring it through the department of labor,” Fiegenschuh said. “We want to see what regulations or rules come out from the department of labor on how they think it's supposed to be implemented.”

Fiegenschuh said he thinks there will be court cases challenging the order, which could delay or change its outcome.  

“We’ve seen how masking can be a very complex and controversial issue,” Fiegenschuh said. “This is different and beyond that. Because you're actually requiring people to put something in their body that they might have objections to. I think we need to take a slow approach to it.”

The city manager said he’s already had discussions with Rochelle’s legal team and their input was to wait and see what rules come from the department of labor. 

“So we're still waiting to see what comes from there,” Fiegenschuh said. “But it's kept me up at night. Because this is an issue where you can be perceived as a bad guy."

Fiegenschuh said the city hasn’t heard “anything overt” from staff about Biden’s vaccination requirement. In some conversations with staff at city hall, there have been concerns, he said. 

Any type of federal or state government mandate concerns Fiegenschuh, he said. He said he has a hard time wrapping his head around the government telling other people what to do with their bodies and then expecting employers like the city to enforce it. 

“I'm vaccinated, I have no problem with it,” Fiegenschuh said. “But there are people who do have a problem with forced vaccinations. And it troubles me that the federal government wants employers like the city to make them do that. That bothers me. At this point I don't see a reason to be worried. I think we take a wait and see approach."