vaccine

Local county officials recently moved forward with preparations to meet a federal mandate requiring unvaccinated workers to undergo weekly testing for COVID-19 by Feb. 9.

Supervisors in Clinton and Jackson counties approved their respective policies that were discussed with department heads (Monday in Clinton County and Tuesday in Jackson County) even as the measure, which won’t be ruled on for at least a few more weeks, went before members of the U.S. Supreme Court this past Friday.

“I didn’t think we’d be this far with it,” said Becki Chapin, Jackson County’s human resources director, at a recent Jackson County supervisors meeting.

The federal mandate, announced by President Joe Biden last fall, requires vaccination or weekly COVID-19 testing of all employees, absent disability or religious accommodations, for employers of 100 or more people.

The mandate, which is being overseen by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), was halted in November by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and then reinstated in December by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Dawn Aldridge, human resources director for Clinton County, said her office has been working for weeks to prepare to comply and will continue even with the Supreme Court decision pending.

“It’s better to have the policy in place than not have it in place and miss the deadlines that are in effect right now,” she said in a phone conversation early Monday afternoon.

One of those deadlines WAS Monday, Jan. 10, when employers with 100 or more workers are required to have a COVID-19 policy in place.

In addition, securing tests and setting up a system for administering them as well as other details are being hammered out.

Among the details each county must nail down in its policies are how the testing will be administered and paid for and how disciplinary action for employees who choose not to be vaccinated will be handled. This includes such issues as whether those employees are granted more chances to comply, whether they are sent home if they don’t, whether they would be paid, and whether they would remain employed by the county.

In Clinton County, as of Monday 80 employees had confirmed they were vaccinated, while 110 employees had not answered that question.

In Jackson County, 79 of 109 employees had responded. Of those 79 responses, 59% were vaccinated.

Prior to the policies being approved, employees weren’t required to share their status. However, per the policy, all employees must notify the county of their vaccination status.