The Grand Rapids Chamber reflected on the pandemic-induced outcomes of the past year as well as envisioned the future of health care at this morning’s Health Care Summit, sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Speakers ranged from doctors and lawyers to Pfizer executives and the Lt. Governor of Michigan. Each gave an inside look at how the pandemic has changed their industry’s narrative and what the business community can do to successfully move forward.
As Andy Johnston, the Chamber’s Vice President of Government Affairs acknowledged at the beginning of the event, “We’ve learned so much since August; as individuals, as a community, and as a nation. For the first time in recent memory, the entire world banded together to find a solution and, in the process, performed a scientific miracle.”
Frontline workers have seen the most obvious impacts to their industry and the first panel made up of three doctors, all of who returned to the stage from last year’s summit, discussed their lessons learned since the start of the pandemic. They covered questions from the recent spike in cases, to the effectiveness of masks, and the social distancing protocols two-weeks after receiving your second vaccine.
We know that the quickest way to return to a pre-pandemic normal is to distribute the vaccine as efficiently as possible to reach herd immunity, but there are many questions as to the best way to engage in this process. The next presenters, including two Pfizer executives, gave guidance to employers and employees on the standards and effectiveness of the vaccine plus ways to incentivize getting a shot.
“Instead of a mandatory vaccination policy, an employer may wish to incentivize its employees to receive the vaccine,” said Kristen Guinn, shareholder at Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge PC. “Employers should follow certain best practices such as creating and implementing a written policy, tailoring a vaccination program, creating a process for providing reasonable accommodations to employees and being mindful of state and federal laws regarding employee leave and layoffs.”
Finally, the event concluded with Michigan’s Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II who updated audience members with where the state stands in terms of vaccine distribution and the Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities. The task force was initially created to address how COVID was disproportionally affecting communities of color by increasing transparency around ethnic and racial data and reduce overall bias and barriers to patients.