COLUMBUS (WCMH) – With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surging and the virus hitting closer to home, a Columbus company is rallying its workers to get vaccinated.
“A lot of my staff is in that age bracket [where] they’re young, they’re healthy, they’re invincible,” said Rob McDevitt. “Then this came about, kind of knocked a couple of them for a loop and they said, ‘Woah this is serious.’”
McDevitt, the owner of Pinnacle Landscaping, explained the close knit company of about 45 escaped the first year of the pandemic relatively unscathed.
“We were washing hands, wearing masks, social distancing as best as we could,” he said, adding the measures were enough to initially prevent any cases.
“Then the Delta variant [arrived], which is obviously a lot more contagious, and we had a few guys contract it,” he continued. “So we had to do the quarantine thing, get guys tested. It even put one healthy, young individual in the hospital for a few days.”
With some of his crew suddenly sidelined, McDevitt called a team meeting to encourage more workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Recently, the Central Ohio Hospital Council said almost all of the patients hospitalized with the virus were unvaccinated. The case numbers indicate the highly contagious Delta variant is affecting more healthy, young individuals.
“That was kind of a wake-up call. I tried to tell the guys, ‘Hey, this is serious. This could affect you, it could affect your family,’” McDevitt said.
Employee Greg Villanueva added, “It got real. It got real scary… like, ‘Oh my god, I could get it and take it home to my kids and stuff. My unborn baby could get it.’ It’s just a risk I don’t want to take anymore.”
A discussion about misconceptions and reassurance from those who had already received the shot, combined with the recent FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine, encouraged at least 8 employees to start the vaccination process. Friday, the group traveled to Columbus Public Health together to get their first doses.
“It makes it a lot better going in with people you care about and being in the same boat, not by yourself,” Villanueva said.
He and others said their biggest reservation about the shot was their fear of needles.
He said, “I was just scared, pretty much. I’m not a fan of needles. I’ve got tattoos and stuff… but the shot’s just a different story for me.”
The group breathed a collective sigh of relief when they all had their first shots administered.
“The biggest hang up for me was being afraid of needles. But I got it done, conquered it, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I didn’t even feel it,” said Dee Hall.
Others agreed and said their biggest reward was knowing the vaccine will give them an added layer of protection for vulnerable family members.
“I’d rather be safe than sorry. My mom has underlying health issues,” said Daniel Tucker. “Even though I was kind of sketched out by the shot, I thought — it’s not just about me, I’ve got to think about other people.”
McDevitt is offering $150 to employees who get vaccinated. He said Friday, close to half of his employees had started the process, but he expects the rate will go up once others see their coworkers’ experiences.
“There’s a few still out there on the fence and I think after these guys come back and [say], ‘Hey, it’s not that bad.’ Then I think we’ll get a few more out there,” he said.
Additionally, Columbus Public Health recently extended its ‘Cash Vax’ incentive program. The department will give a $100 Visa gift card to anyone who receives their first dose at select clinics by September 10. You can find more information about the program by clicking on this link.