AUGUSTA — Four days after large employers across central Maine and the nation had begun complying with the federal vaccinate-or-test requirement, they are now reconsidering their policies.

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court halted enforcement of a rule designed to help slow the spread of COVID-19 by requiring businesses employing more than 100 people to document staff members’ vaccinations or conduct weekly testing.

The court is allowing enforcement to continue for most heath care workers in the United States. That leaves businesses in Maine and elsewhere considering their next steps.

MaineGeneral in Augusta, which is among the region’s largest employers, has also been subject to the state’s vaccination mandate that was also reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Today’s decision to uphold the federal vaccination mandate for health care facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds followed their previous ruling allowing Maine’s vaccination mandate to go forward,” MaineGeneral spokeswoman Joy McKenna said Thursday. “MaineGeneral is in full compliance with the mandate.”

In November, MaineGeneral officials said the organization had lost 191 of its 4,500 employees, or about 4% of its workforce, over the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate that required health care workers in Maine be fully vaccinated by the end of October.


Since September, employers have been put on notice by the Biden administration that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would enforce an emergency temporary standard requiring organizations employing more than 100 people to require employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested weekly. OSHA also had the ability to assess penalties on those failing to comply.

That has prompted organizations to ask employees to provide proof of vaccination and find ways to implement weekly testing for those who have not been — or choose not to be — vaccinated.

At the time of the announcement, the infection rates across Maine were relatively low, with only a couple of dozen cases per day being reported.

Since then, daily case counts reported by the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention have routinely exceeded 1,000. Public health experts have said those numbers are not wholly reliable because more people have begun testing for COVID-19 infection at home and do not report the results to the state, and daily counts include cases that can be more than a week old.

Central Maine Power Co. implemented its vaccine-or-test policy this week. The company, which serves southern and central Maine, employs about 1,000 people from Skowhegan to Kittery. CMP is one of nine companies under the Avangrid corporate umbrella in the northeastern United States, and all are subject to the company’s policy.

“Should that change, based on a Supreme Court decision, we will follow any updated laws that we’d be required to do,” spokeswoman Catharine Hartnett said Tuesday.


All employees had been advised they were to update their vaccination status with the company. By next month, they should either be fully vaccinated, as detailed by the state CDC, or the company will undertake weekly testing requirements for them.

Because the company’s employees are located across Maine, the logistics of the testing mandate were still being worked out Tuesday, according to Hartnett.

“We have an employee health and wellness area that is watching state mandates we need to pay attention to, as well as federal,” she said. “We have an area dedicated to keeping track of that, and making sure if things do need an official change to policy, that it happens and employees are educated about that.”

As the omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to surge in Maine and elsewhere, CMP has urged employees to work from home if they are able. For those who are not, they are asked to wear masks and maintain physical distance from co-workers.

“Our office looks very much like it did in March 2020,” Hartnett said.

In Maine, government workers are also covered by OSHA’s emergency temporary standard.


Kennebec County, with about 150 people on its payroll, offered employees an incentive of $2,000 to get vaccinated to be able to meet the vaccination requirement.

Scott Ferguson, Kennebec County administrator, said county officials will have to assess the ruling in light of the county’s policy. The commissioners meet next week.

“Like we’ve been saying to everyone, the policy is a living document,” Ferguson said. “We’ll discuss it with the commissioners and see what they want to do.”

Ferguson said county officials considered the retention of employees, particularly at the Kennebec County Correctional Facility in Augusta, when it authorized incentive payments.

“It’s a tough job and it doesn’t pay much,” Ferguson said. “We actually increased our acceptance rate (of the vaccine) by about 20%, and we’re up to about 87% vaccinated, which is I think pretty good.”

When testing began in early January, a flaw in the county’s plan was revealed. Because deputies with the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office work overnight shifts that end at 4 a.m., they were not available to be tested at 8 a.m. Ferguson said a second round of testing has since been scheduled to accommodate them.


“The main objective here,” he said, “is the safety and security of all the employees.”

At Hannaford, the Scarborough-based grocery chain with 183 stores across the Northeast, company officials have encouraged employees to get vaccinated, even as company officials continued to monitor developments. The company provided no information on the percentage of its employees who have been vaccinated.

On Thursday, Erika Dodge, Hannaford’s external communications manager, said via email she could not comment what the decision would mean for the company.

“That decision literally just broke,” Dodge said. “I can’t answer the question until the news is socialized and analyzed.”

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