Federal Vaccine Mandate
October 8th, 2021
President Biden recently issued Executive Order 14042 directing all Federal agencies to ensure that contracts entered into with government contractors and subcontractors include clauses forcing workforce vaccination. The Executive Order will apply to all contracts entered into with the Federal government after October 15th and requires contractors to ensure 100% vaccination status, does not allow a weekly testing option in lieu of vaccination, and restricts options for religious or medical exemptions. The contract provisions also apply to all sub-contractors conducting business with the primary contractor. In addition, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been directed to develop an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) which will require employers with over 100 employees to ensure all employees are vaccinated. There is expected to be an option for weekly testing under the OSHA ETS as well as religious and medical exemptions.
Freres Lumber is both a government contractor, through Federal Timber Sale contracts, as well as an employer with over 100 employees. The Executive Order and the OSHA ETS will be directly applicable to our operations.
Freres Lumber was one of the first companies in the area to provide a vaccination day with our partners at Santiam Hospital. We believe in the vaccines as effective life-saving measures to help prevent hospitalization and death from COVID 19. However, we also understand that our workforce is made up of diverse people with different perspectives and opinions, as is most of America. We trust that our employees can conduct their own risk assessments and make the choice that best reflects their circumstances. We have no interest in delving into the political, medical, or religious choices of our employees. We have no interest in becoming the enforcement arm of the Federal government with ad-hoc authoritarian orders and understand the undue stress and strain these ongoing mandates and restrictions place on our employees’ lives. These orders will have a lasting negative effect on our business and on our workforce and have broader implications for the overall economy, potentially exacerbating existing supply chain issues and delaying an economic recovery.
The Executive Order and the OSHA ETS will likely face numerous legal challenges. We look forward to a rapid determination as to the constitutionality and applicability of these standards. We do not intend to comply with these orders until all legal challenges have been exhausted and they are truly in force. We must also recognize, however, that should these orders survive judicial scrutiny, we will be forced to comply. We rely on a consistent supply of Federal timber and cannot operate without this raw material supply nor can we incur the ruinous fines that non-compliance could impose upon us.
If you believe that these Executive Orders, mandates, and directives on both a Federal and State level are over-reaching and authoritarian, and counter to the principles of freedom and liberty, then the solution is to vote appropriately. We are praying for the continued decline in COVID hospitalizations and deaths and look forward to a return to more normal social lives.
Rob, Kyle, & Tyler Freres
March 8th, 2021
It was a year ago that we published the first article in our newsletter concerning the Corona virus, now more often referred to as COVID-19 or just Covid. Almost every aspect of our lives has been affected dramatically since that time, especially here in Oregon which locked down businesses and activities in a stricter fashion and for a longer period of time than many other states.
Our company was obviously not spared from the effects of the virus, and we are still living with mask and social distancing mandates. Over the last year we have had 27 employees who have tested positive for Covid. Only one of those employees who tested positive was found to have been exposed at work. All of those who tested positive recovered from the virus and returned to their normal activities.
That certainly doesn’t mean that this has been easy, or that many have not been rightfully nervous about the virus. The 4th quarter of 2020 was especially difficult as we saw about 60% of our positive cases occur in this time period. This is also the normal flu season, which made normal flu symptoms a serious concern for many. In addition many of us with young children have been dealing with additional stress and complications due to school closures, which are just now easing statewide.
The good news is that number of cases per week state and nationwide are dropping precipitously. The nationwide 7-day average of cases has dropped from a high of 297,430 to the current average of 59,861. This is as we are nearing 20% of the population that has been administered vaccinations for Covid. The national death rate for the virus has settled at 155 deaths per 100,000 people, or 0.155%. Indications from our Governor, Kate Brown, are that she intends to have all public schools open for all grades by April 19th.
Though there may be more difficulties ahead, as we come in to spring we fervently hope and anticipate that additional progress will be made against the virus and that our work and personal lives return to a semblance of normal.. Thanks to everyone for working with us to insure a safe work environment over the last year.
Since our last COVID-19 update the governor has instituted additional mask requirements in the workplace, overriding previous guidance which focused on maintaining a safe social distance in most environments. We now require masks in all offices, except when employees are sitting at their desks.
To date we have had eleven employees test positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of May. Since the middle of August, when the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) changed some of their reporting guidelines, we have had six cases. The OHA continues to report Freres on an “outbreak” list stating that we have 15 active cases. We disagree that we should be included on this list for the following reasons:
- The OHA defines an outbreak as “five or more cases” at a single business, regardless of the size of the business, whether those employees work together in a single location, or if there has been a verifiable link between those employees.
- In order to attribute 15 active cases to our company the OHA has identified an “epilink” between cases, and this link is often family members who are not employees and who have had no other contact with our worksite or other employees. We cannot verify the veracity of these claims as we have no visibility to the tests of those family members.
- We are concerned about the process of establishing multiple “epilinks” to a business through a household when those households may have dual incomes. In this case those links would be double-counted toward both businesses.
- We believe the label “workplace outbreak” is both misleading and false, as that number does not reflect the total number of cases within our workplace (a place where people work). In this case, 15 is nearly four times as many Freres employees as we currently have with positive COVID-19 test results. This misleading number is causing misinformation and distrust within our community.
To date we have five employees who are out on positive results who were, to our knowledge, exposed by family members. We have one employee out on a positive result who we believe was exposed to a team member on site and one other with unknown exposure. These six are the only cases in our employee community that we know about since the beginning of September.
Two employees have tested positive for Covid, and are currently under quarantine. The last employee who tested positive earlier this month is out of quarantine and back to work.
Another employee has tested positive for Covid. Safety procedures and protocols have been followed and the employee is currently off work under quarantine.
A summary of COVID related issues to date:
- We have had a total of 5 positive test results. The last employee who tested positive came back to work on August 31st.
- We have had 26 employees who have been paid benefit time due to exposure to someone who had the virus.
- We have had 3 employees who have been out in order to care for a family member who were tested but not positive results. All 3 are back to work.
- We have had 6 employees who have been paid benefit time because they were not able to get childcare – all 6 have returned to work.
We appreciate the effort all of our employees have gone through to make sure we have a safe workplace.
Offices are still restricted due to the Governor’s order at the end of June. Visitors can contact office staff and may enter when necessary, but masks will be required unless a 6’ separation can be maintained. We were notified Monday, August 10th that an employee who had previously tested negative had a positive retest. COVID related safety procedures have been followed and other employees in contact with this individual were notified. Two other employees are on self-imposed quarantine due to contact outside of work.
Our updates re: COVID-19
Based on the Governor’s order at the end of June, our office doors have been locked. Visitors can contact office staff and may enter when necessary, but masks will be required unless a 6’ separation can be maintained. We are not aware of any new cases of Covid in our employee community. The Governor’s order does not require employees to wear masks at work, but disposable masks have been made available and each employee has been provided with a complimentary Freres Lumber gaiter for their use if they choose.
Our updates re: COVID-19
June 7, 2020
To date we have had three positive cases of Covid-19 throughout our company, and no new cases since the middle of May. All of those employees are healthy and able to return to work. Five employees remain on Covid-19 related leave, such as a family related quarantine or issues related to childcare. All Covid-19 related safety measures remain in place and we encourage all employees to continue following social distancing measures.
Our updates re: COVID-19
May 13, 2020
Two employees notified Freres Lumber that they tested positive for COVID-19. Employee 1 reported a positive test result on May 12; employee 2 on May 13. Freres’ HR and Safety managers are working on contact tracing, alerting anyone who was in close contact with the employee(s). We are also referring these employees to the CDC website and suggesting they call their physician. These cases occurred after a week of downtime, so there was limited workplace contact.
Employees who test positive for COVID-19 will be:
- Instructed not to report to work.
- Advised to contact his or her healthcare provider.
- Quarantined with pay.
- Asked to identify all coworkers with whom they have worked in close proximity in the last 14 days. The company will notify these team members without identifying the employee.
These measures protect our employees, customers and the community at large.
Protecting the Freres Lumber family
- Employees are recommended to maintain social distance, 6 feet of separation from each other. In cases where employees work in close proximity to each other shields or barriers have been utilized to provide opportunity to social distance.
- Supervisors are regularly cleaning high-traffic areas. We have increased the frequency of professional contracted cleaning services.
- Employees are instructed not to report to work if they are sick or exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.
- Freres has provided thermometers, rubber gloves, masks and guidance for their use at each plant.
- Freres will continue employee health benefits.
- Freres has relaxed attendance policies to eliminate any punitive effect for missing work due to COVID-19.
- Freres has posted COVID-19 information in employee break rooms.
- The company is continually resupplying work areas, offices and break rooms with sanitizer and/or disinfectant wipes.
Supporting our community
In addition to supporting nearly 500 local employees in our plants, many suppliers, contractors, and customers rely on our business, as well. We have a responsibility to their families, as well as a responsibility to help our communities as we weather this health and economic storm together.
Freres Lumber recently gifted Santiam Canyon School District a $100,000 donation as well as a $150,000 in-kind donation of Mass Plywood Products as a show of support to our Santiam Canyon communities and families. With distance learning in place, SCSD was able to move their new school construction timeline up to get those projects completed early while students are at-home for the rest of the school year.
In addition, Freres employees, contractors and family members are supporting Santiam Hospital’s SIT Mobile program that helps deliver essential goods to local families in need.