Philly Mayor Kenney won’t mandate COVID vaccine for city workers – but won’t rule it out

“We will continue to assess the need to implement a vaccination mandate for our city workers and may make this a requirement at a future date,” a spokesperson said

By: - July 28, 2021 10:53 am

Vanessa Garrett Harley, Deputy Managing Director, Criminal Justice & Public Safety and Mayor Jim Kenney discuss preventive initiatives aimed at reducing gun violence and gun trauma (Philadelphia Tribune photo by Abdul Sulayman)

By Michael D’Onofrio

PHILADELPHIA — Mayor Jim Kenney will not mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for city employees even as some staff have already been called back to in-person work and virus case counts rise in Philadelphia.

While New York City and California have put in place vaccine mandates for their public employees, the Kenney administration continues to rely on persuasion and incentives to push city workers to get inoculated.

But the Kenney administration is not ruling out a vaccine requirement, Kenney spokesman Joy Huertas said in an email.

“We will continue to assess the need to implement a vaccination mandate for our City workers and may make this a requirement at a future date,” Huertas said.

Some city employees began returning to their offices July 6 and others earlier than that, Huertas said. Approximately 2,200 full-time city employees were working predominantly remotely as of June. The city has 27,402 employees.

Remote work will likely continue for many departments, Huertas said.

The city’s virtual work policy allots up to three days of remote work per week for employees. Each department can establish its own remote-work schedules based on its operational needs. The Kenney administration does not anticipate any cost-savings from employees working remotely, Huertas said.

The city formed an internal committee to help departments with the most staff working remotely to develop their own plans to bring employees back into the office, Huertas said. The committee also surveyed employees about their concerns about working remotely and in-person.

“While we’ve provided overall guidance and policies around the return to office, each department has the opportunity to set a plan that makes sense for their operations and workforce,” Huertas said.

Whether City Council will convene in-person in September and when legislative sessions resume remains unknown. A spokesman for Council President Darrell Clarke did not respond to a request for comment.

CDC says the vaccinated should wear masks indoors in areas with high infection rates

Members of Council have been holding virtual legislative sessions throughout the pandemic.

The city is experiencing a “small but real increase” in COVID-19 cases mostly likely due to the Delta variant, acting Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said last week in a news release.

New daily positive COVID-19 case counts over a two-week period rose to 74 as of Thursday from 25 reported July 1, according to the most recent figures from the Kenney administration.

After relaxing coronavirus restrictions months ago, Philadelphia Department of Public Health now strongly recommends that everyone wear face masks indoors.

The city has vaccinated 60.8% of adults and 73.9% of adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Kenney administration.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio expanded the city’s vaccination mandate Monday to require all city workers — approximately 300,000 — get a vaccination or receive weekly testing starting in September due to the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases caused by the Delta variant.

California became the first state in the nation to require all state workers, health care workers, and high-risk congregate settings to show proof of full vaccination or be tested weekly.

Michael D’Onofrio is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared. 

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