Column: Job platform for unvaccinated people is silent about COVID-19 dangers – Community News
Covid-19

Column: Job platform for unvaccinated people is silent about COVID-19 dangers

Helping employers and potential employees find each other sounds like a good idea.

If that effort aims to match companies and like-minded employees who go beyond the actual job, all the better it seems.

But what if those mutually acceptable views could endanger public safety?

That question is pertinent regarding a new local online platform that offers to match companies that don’t need COVID-19 vaccines with employees who don’t get them.

A new San Diego-based website, PublicSq., this week announced a job board aimed at helping more than 65 mostly local businesses looking for employees, “regardless of vaccination status.”

The release announcement cites the PublicSq. leader and business owners who join the platform and talk about people having to leave their jobs because of their ‘medical choice’.

PublicSq. features a broad digital platform that says it “connects freedom-loving Americans with local communities, trusted information, and the companies that share their values.”

The announcement mentions vaccinations, but never says what they are for. Neither “COVID-19” nor “coronavirus” appear in the announcement or the organization’s main website. There is no discussion about the millions of people the disease has infected and killed. Nothing is said about how unvaccinated people are much more at risk of being affected by COVID-19 than those who received the injections.

“We are all fairly aware at this point of the risk that COVID-19 poses,” says PublicSq. CEO Michael Seifert said in an interview. “We don’t want to reject that reality at all.”

A sidelight here is a member of the PublicSq. team has family ties to the founder of a nonprofit San Diego-based organization that provided financial assistance to restaurants struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, including an offer to pay fines for violating coronavirus rules. That connection extends to the staff of County Supervisor Jim Desmond, one of the region’s most prominent COVID-19 skeptics.

Seifert said PublicSq. does not support or oppose vaccinating people, adding that he has no problem with companies choosing to require employees to get the vaccine – as long as those policies are not forced on companies.

“We respect both sides of the vaccine debate,” he said.

The county does not mandate private company employees or their customers to get vaccinated, but strongly urges people to do so.

“The fastest and surest way out of the pandemic is vaccination,” county spokesman Michael Workman said in an email this week. “They are now available in most age groups. Consult with your doctor, get vaccinated.”

Seifert objects to the idea that unvaccinated people are prolonging the pandemic because vaccinated people can also transmit the virus. Vaccinated people can transmit it, but it’s much less likely than unvaccinated people because the vaccines often prevent infection, according to Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center.

“And if someone is not infected, he cannot spread the coronavirus. It really is that simple,” he wrote in The Atlantic.

The province demands that its own new employees be vaccinated and that existing employees are regularly vaccinated or tested for the corona virus.

The state has issued several mandates, including requiring health professionals and teachers to be vaccinated, along with students, within the time frame following the Federal Drug Administration’s approval of the vaccine for their age group.

President Joe Biden has issued an order that companies with 100 or more employees require their employees to be vaccinated at least weekly or show a negative COVID-19 test. A federal appeals court has suspended that claim pending further legal review.

A few entrepreneurs quoted in the PublicSq. announcement are clear, they just want people who can do the job, period.

“We are looking for qualified candidates regardless of your vaccine status,” said Orion Ruckle, owner of Ruckle Construction. “As a business owner, I don’t care what someone’s vaccination status is, I just want the best employees I can find.”

The person listed as a liaison with PublicSq., Kristin Himmel, is married to Miles Himmel, founder of the Larry Himmel Neighborhood Foundation and spokesperson for Desmond.

Late last year, the foundation offered to help restaurants that had been ordered to close the service except for takeout and delivery — including potentially paying fines for coronavirus protocol violations.

The foundation’s website lists a dozen restaurants it helped, but the program ultimately paid no fines, according to Miles Himmel.

“No fines at all,” he said in an interview this week.

While numerous restaurants and businesses were warned to remain open during the state-mandated coronavirus shutdown — some were given shutdown orders — few were prosecuted.

Miles Himmel said this week the foundation’s help has been directed elsewhere, such as paying for equipment, to help restaurants get through tough times. He said the foundation donated more than $50,000 to local restaurants.

He added that the foundation is separate from PublicSq., and does not necessarily share its philosophy.

“We don’t want to get involved in the political aspect,” he said.

The foundation was established in honor of the late San Diego humorist and media figure Larry Himmel, Miles’ father. The organization has a broad mission to help “organizations large and small and individuals in need”.

Desmond has become infamous for his skepticism about COVID-19 and for criticizing shutdown orders, which he says would ruin many businesses and wreck the economy.

In May 2020, he generated headlines and criticism when he said the province had only “six pure, all-coronavirus deaths”. He suggested that the rest of the roughly 190 deaths attributed to the virus at the time should be disregarded because the victims had underlying health conditions.

According to the province, 4,272 deaths from the coronavirus were recorded on Wednesday.

No matter how much business owners and individuals oppose vaccinations, they will be under constant pressure from health officials, governments and society at large to reconsider.

In some regions of the state, hospitalizations from COVID-19 are rising again.