Commercial real estate firm Camden requires COVID vaccines for employees

Camden, a Houston-based owner and operator of apartments across the country, is requiring all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as the delta variant continues to spread.

“We want to do the right thing,” said CEO Ric Campo. “It’s about creating a safe workplace.”

The company told employees Tuesday that all team members will need to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 11.

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“We just decided to take a stand as a company and hope that other companies do as well,” Campo said. “The only way to get control of this pandemic and to stop the fourth, fifth or even sixth wave is to draw a line in the sand, and say you have a choice to get vaccinated or you have to go work someplace else.”

Camden employs 1,700 people, including 500 in Houston, across its headquarters and 170 apartment communities.

The decision follows similar mandates by companies across the nation, including United Airlines, Google and local firms Houston Methodist and ZT Corporate.

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Camden, which has more than 59,000 apartments units in Texas, Florida, California and other states, saw a rise in COVID cases among its employees this summer. It has made changes throughout the pandemic with a goal of keeping employees and residents of its apartments safe.

Since the onset of the pandemic, apartment personnel were considered essential and stayed on site. Demands increased on them as more people worked from home and procedures were put in place such as requiring appointments at the leasing office, social distancing and wearing masks, Campo said.

The company has encouraged employees to get the vaccination and disseminated facts to fight misinformation on social media. Campo encourages employees who have concerns to speak with their doctors.

Human resources will consider religious and disability related exceptions, said Julie Keel, vice president of marketing at Camden. The exempt employees must wear a mask, test weekly and reapply for the exemption every 90 days.

Employees at the company’s Greenway Plaza corporate offices are working either in the office or remotely. Camden was the No. 1 Houston Chronicle Top Workplaces winner among large employers in 2020. The publicly-traded company ranked 8th on Fortune’s 100 Best Places To Work For.

The guidance comes as the positive test rate for COVID-19 in Texas hit 17.9 percent as of Aug. 16, up from 10.4 percent a month earlier, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

In Texas, 54.6 of residents have been fully vaccinated, according to the state health department. Experts say more than 75 percent of the population would need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.

While feedback from employees has been mostly positive, Campo acknowledged there could be some pushback.

“I don’t think were going to have very many people that decide to take the other option and just work someplace else,” Campo said.