City’s proposed COVID-19 policy on hold

Published 4:10 pm Monday, November 22, 2021

City of Winchester’s draft of a possible COVID-19 vaccination, testing and face covering policy for city employees is on hold pending the outcome of deliberations percolating up through the court system.

The policy is in limbo because the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has blocked President Joe Biden’s executive order requiring places with over 100 workers to mandate vaccination for their employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has suspended implementation and enforcement after the court ordered that OSHA “take no steps to implement or enforce” the vaccine mandate “until further court order.”

Mayor Ed Burtner said it would be best to wait to see how the court system handles Biden’s mandate before city council makes any decision regarding whether to discuss or enact a COVID-19 policy.

“I think the appropriate thing for us to do is to wait a bit to see exactly what the courts do,” Burtner said during city council’s recent work session
City Manager Michael Flynn said the city employs more than 130 workers. He said the city has not conducted any polling to determine how many employees are vaccinated.

“Our position is that a vaccination is a personal choice,” he said.
City’s draft COVID-19 policy said the proposal complies with OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard on Vaccination and Testing for all city employees.

Policy says an employee that chooses to or is required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 must be fully vaccinated no later than Jan. 4, 2022. Draft policy says all employees are required to report their vaccination status and if vaccinated, provide proof of vaccination. Any employee not fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 will be subject to regular testing and face covering requirements of the policy.

Policy says employees must provide truthful and accurate information about their COVID-19 vaccination status and if not fully vaccinated, provide their testing results. Employees not in compliance with this policy will be subject to discipline up to termination, the policy says.

Policy says employees may request an exemption from vaccination requirements (if applicable) if the vaccine is medically contraindicated for them, or if medical necessity requires a delay in vaccination. Employees may also be legally entitled to a reasonable accomodation if they cannot be vaccinated and/or wear a face covering (as required by this policy) because of a disability, or if the provisions in this policy for vaccination, and/or testing for COVID-19, and/or wearing a face covering with a sincerely held religious belief, practice or observance. Requests for exceptions and reasonable accomodations must be initiated by the employee. All such requests shall be handled with applicable laws, regulations and policies, the policy states.