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Philadelphia City Council announced plans Tuesday to require all council staffers to get fully vaccinated by the time lawmakers reconvene for fall, or undergo weekly COVID testing.
Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration is expected to make an announcement soon regarding vaccination plans for the municipal workforce writ large.
Philadelphia is following the lead of other city and state governments that have already rolled out “vaccine or test” plans. The flood of mandates comes as the delta variant escalates coronavirus infection rates nationwide, especially among unvaccinated people.
Pennsylvania took a step toward a statewide policy for government workers on Tuesday as well, with Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration unveiling a vaccine or test mandate for about 25,000 state healthcare workers, corrections officers and other employees in congregate care facilities. The vaccine deadline for those workers is Sept. 7.
The Kenney administration in July said it would “assess the need” for a vaccine requirement, which the largest union for city workers has now confirmed it will not oppose, according to The Inquirer. This follows a similar pledge from the teachers union on Monday.
In Philadelphia, 77% of eligible adults have received at least one dose of the vaccines, with 63% fully vaccinated, according to city data. Disparities in vaccination rate between ZIP codes remain a significant concern for health officials.
All 191 council staff members must be fully vaccinated by the time session resumes on Sept. 16, Council President Darrell Clarke announced Tuesday. It remains unclear what percentage of staff are already inoculated. All 17 elected councilmembers told The Inquirer they had been.
Staffers with medical or religious exemptions will be required to undergo regular testing in lieu of vaccination, a carve-out similar to other government vaccine policies.
Clarke stressed the importance of mandatory vaccinations so the legislative body can return to in-person meetings.
“The public has a right to see and participate in the business of their Council,” Clarke wrote in a letter to Council staff. “At the same time, we must balance that right with public health and safety. With the rise in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant, we must act to protect the public and Council.”