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Slotkin praises businesses setting COVID rules, urges Michiganders to get vaccinated

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, watches Michelle Calero put on protective gear as Calero prepares to visit her husband, who is being treated for COVID-19 at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing. Slotkin toured the hospital on Monday, Jan. 17. 2022.
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Sparrow Hospital
U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, toured Lansing's Sparrow Hospital Monday and said more vaccinations will be key to taming the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Representative Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, urged more Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 after touring Lansing's Sparrow Hospital Monday.

Nearly 70% of COVID patients across the hospital system are unvaccinated, a Sparrow spokesman said.

"And that's just fact, it's not politics," Slotkin said. "So, if you want to help your nurses, if you want to help your medical professionals, help your local hospital so that they can treat you for all the other things and you know, accidents that happen, then we need people to get vaccinated."

Slotkin praised businesses that have voluntarily set COVID rules for their employees but stopped short of saying Congress should make workplaces require the vaccines.

"A lot of businesses on their own have made their own standards," Slotkin said. "And I think that that's important. No one wants to lose people because, you know, personnel are concerned about getting COVID at work."

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down rules from the Biden administration last week that would have required workers at businesses with more than 100 employees to either get vaccinated against COVID or face weekly testing.

Now, those requirements for private businesses appear all but dead unless Congress attempts to pass a mandate or expand the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s ability to do so.

Such attempts would likely face an uphill battle, particularly in the U.S. Senate, which is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. And Slotkin says she'd have hesitations about supporting such measures if they were introduced in the House of Representatives.

"I'll look at anything, but I just can't say for certain how I would vote on something like that," Slotkin said. "I'd have to look at it and talk to our businesses."

In particular, Slotkin said, small businesses with fewer than 100 employees could be hurt by such requirements.

"They've cut hours. They don't have enough personnel to do basic things," Slotkin said. "So, I'd be real reticent, on our smallest businesses, to put any kind of hard and fast requirement."

At Sparrow, Slotkin watched health care workers get ready with personal protective equipment and spoke with the wife of an unvaccinated man who is hospitalized with COVID-19, a Sparrow spokesman said.

Slotkin also called on Michigan's Legislature to quickly allocate federal coronavirus relief money.

And, during her visit, Slotkin reacted to news of four people held hostage at a Texas synagogue Saturday. One of the hostages, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, grew up in the Lansing area. Slotkin said she spoke with his family over the weekend.

"We have to accept that this is just another instance of anti-Semitism, and we've seen a precipitous rise in anti-Semitism and in hate crimes against all different types of minorities in the past few years," Slotkin said. "We need to own that, understand that and do something about that. And that's not just about money. That's about community leaders standing up and doing the right thing and pushing back when people spew hate."

Slotkin is running for reelection in Michigan's newly drawn 7th congressional district in 2022.

Sarah Lehr is a politics and civics reporter for WKAR News.
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