Hyattsville prepares to mandate vaccines for staff
At the Nov. 1 Hyattsville city council meeting, councilmembers discussed a proposed coronavirus vaccine mandate for city employees and contractors.
City staff is mostly vaccinated. According to City Administrator Tracey Douglas, the police department and the department of public works have the only unvaccinated employees, with about 14 of them between the two departments.
Douglas said she is in the process of talking individually with staff members who are not vaccinated to hear their concerns. She has also connected them with a doctor who can answer questions privately.
While the city council seemed generally supportive of a vaccine mandate, councilmembers asked questions about what would happen if employees refuse to get vaccinated and how that would affect the city’s functioning.
Douglas said any mandate would likely require unvaccinated employees to undergo regular testing. According to Douglas, OSHA requirements would make the city pay for these tests, as well as for the time the employees would spend getting tested. Some city councilmembers, including Ben Simasek (Ward 3) and Joseph Solomon (Ward 5), had concerns about the practicality of testing.
According to Douglas, deciding whether to mandate vaccinations is a balancing act between public health and public safety. There is a possibility some staff members would resign rather than get vaccinated or undergo regular testing.
Chief of Police Jarod Towers said that the police department is already operating with minimum staffing and is having to constantly request overtime. He added that losing even one officer would lead to a significant deficit. Moreover, bringing a new officer onboard is expensive — Towers estimated a cost of between $50,000 and $70,000 per officer.
According to Douglas, the city would provide medical and religious vaccine exemptions where applicable. Vivian Snellman, the director of human resources, said the city does not currently require other vaccines, such as the flu vaccine, or testing, as for tuberculosis.