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Norfolk Southern has started enforcing the federal vaccination mandate, which is applicable because the company is a federal contractor, and some of its Altoona employees are unhappy with it.

Enforcement of President Joe Biden’s September executive order began last month with an apology note to employees that was nonetheless final on the need for workers to be vaccinated, unless they could get an exemption for medical or religious reasons.

A few Juniata Locomotive Shop workers protested the warrant in front of the store entrance, according to other workers who spoke to the Mirror about their own opposition to the new requirement, but the protesters were not there Wednesday after- midday.

Norfolk employees must “Provide their (vaccination) status” to the company by Monday, so Norfolk can arrange to meet the federal deadline of Dec. 8 for everyone to be fully immunized, according to the note, a copy of which a Norfolk spokesperson provided to the Mirror.

“For some, this news will require a difficult individual choice”, the memo says. “(But) we don’t want anyone leaving the company because of this.”

The memo encouraged anyone in need of accommodation – an exemption – to request one.

“I’m not going to protest physically” a store worker, who identified himself as Denny, said on Wednesday. “But I don’t think the vaccine is good for me.”

Workers should be able to choose, Denny said.

COVID-19 has been politicized to appear more dangerous than it actually is, Denny said.

In fact, it is “about as bad as the flu”, he said.

COVID-19 has killed around 749,000 people in the United States in the 20 months since the start of the pandemic and around 5 million worldwide, according to sources online.

An average of 36,000 people a year have died from the flu in the United States over the past decade, according to usafacts.org.

Some Norfolk workers apparently attempted to organize a “reminder day” via social media to voice their opposition to the mandate, but there was some kind of pullback that stifled the effort, Denny said, without further explanation.

Three other employees who spoke to the Mirror in the parking lot opposite the stores on Wednesday were either shot or are considering getting them, but disagree with the warrant.

“I didn’t particularly want to get it” said one. “But I’m ready to do it to keep my job.”

It is “sour” about it though, he added.

“I really don’t care” another said. “But I don’t think they should be forcing it on anyone.”

Insurance considerations appeared in the decision of the third employee, who nevertheless complained that he had been forced to “play these games” after having worked all his life.

A longtime store worker, who recently retired, shared these workers’ opposition to the mandate.

“I believe in freedom” said Jim Patterson, chairman of the Township of Logan Board of Trustees. “It is your right to choose. “

The mandate is federal “exceeding”, said Patterson, who did not get a shot.

“I don’t trust the vaccine” Patterson said, citing the lack of a long history for it.

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective in preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19, and despite their rapid development last year, they have been used successfully on several million people, experts say, including those of UPMC.

Norfolk must meet the mandate because it transports tanks, Humvees and jet fuel for the U.S. Department of Defense, and because it delivers coal to the federally-run Tennessee Valley Authority, according to the memo.

The company has determined that it is covered by the mandate “After carefully considering the (executive) order”, the memo says.

“We studied it, we went through it with a fine comb”, Company CEO James Squires said in a “Call for results” with analysts last month. “It is a difficult decision that is being forced on some of our employees as a result, and we regret it. “

The information that employees must share with the company as part of the mandate will be “Treated as confidential medical information”, the memo says.

Employees can request exemptions through a company’s online portal, according to the memo.

Decisions on these exemption requests will likely depend on limitations imposed by the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII prohibitions against disability and religious discrimination, according to a blog post by Timothy S. Jost on the Fund’s website. of the Commonwealth.

The executive decree is part of a “Comprehensive national strategy … (to) ensure that we use all the tools available to fight COVID-19” to save lives, keep schools open and protect the economy, according to a White House statement titled “Getting out of the pandemic”.

Norfolk will likely lose a few employees as a result of the tenure, Squires told analysts.

“It was not our idea” Squires said. “However, we will follow the law.”

Mirror staff writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.

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