Under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) mandate, large employers, such as Starbucks, must enforce a policy by Feb. 9 requiring employees to be fully vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing and wear a facial covering, Starbucks Chief Operating Officer John Culver told employees in a letter last week.
Culver acknowledged that employees have a "wide spectrum of views on vaccinations, much like the rest of the country." However, he stressed concerns over the severity of the omicron variant saying that it has already "pushed daily COVID-19 case counts higher than the Delta wave at its peak."
"Although there are breakthrough cases, public health and medical experts say that people who are vaccinated will likely experience mild symptoms, while those not vaccinated are significantly more likely to become seriously ill, be hospitalized or die," Culver said.
The vaccine "is the best option we have, by far, when it comes to staying safe and slowing the spread of COVID-19," he added.
To be fully vaccinated, employees will have to get two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
If employees don't get vaccinated, they will have to present a negative COVID-19 test each week to work in a Starbucks store, office, plant or distribution center. Employees will be obligated to submit OSHA-approved tests prior to starting their shift.
Culver said employees must disclose their vaccination status by Jan. 10 in order to help the company determine who needs to undergo weekly testing.
"Partners who decline to disclose or choose not to answer will be treated as unvaccinated," Culver added.