While 74% of Charlottesville city employees have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, city officials are working to increase that number.
“We feel like we have more work to do on that front,” city spokesman Brian Wheeler said at a recent City Council meeting.
Wheeler said the city is encouraging employees to get vaccinated alongside the city’s efforts to vaccinate the general public.
“As an employer, we’re going to really be pushing additional vaccination opportunities. You’ll start seeing some of that communication come out about having [Blue Ridge Health District] mobile units available each of the next six Mondays down on the Downtown Mall. So we’re going to be driving not only the public but also our staff who have not gotten vaccinated yet to get vaccinated,” Wheeler said.
In response to a rise in cases fueled by the delta variant, the Charlottesville School Board voted Thursday to require its employees to get vaccinated by Sept. 1 or submit to regular COVID testing.
City documents acquired by The Daily Progress reveal that as of Wednesday, 69% — 851 —of city employees were fully vaccinated and 5% — 63 — of employees were partially vaccinated.
Vaccination rates vary among departments.
As of Wednesday, all employees in the city attorney, city manager, communications, commonwealth’s attorney and human resources offices were at least partially vaccinated.
About 70% of police department employees have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 90% of fire department employees are fully or partially vaccinated.
Six of eight members of the office of the mayor and the City Council have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Wheeler said the office members include councilors and clerks.
Wheeler said the dataset is not perfect and that numbers of unvaccinated employees also could count employees who have not yet reported to their department that they have received one or more vaccination doses recently, or that the data has been reported but not yet been entered.
Some departments, including parks and recreation, are onboarding a lot of employees right now and are not fully caught up on their data entry, Wheeler said.
Employees in the Charlottesville school division have until Sept. 1 to get vaccinated following the board’s decision this week.
If employees don’t show proof of vaccination or decide against it, they will have to be tested for COVID-19 at regular intervals and provide evidence of a negative test. The board left the specifics and logistics of the requirement up to Acting Superintendent Jim Henderson and his team.
School Board member Jennifer McKeever, who made the motion for the requirement, said the school division’s policies for vaccination should be consistent with the mandate for state employees that Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday. That would include who would possibly be exempted from the requirement and how that process would work.
“The three vaccines are safe, effective, free and widely available, and I strongly urge every eligible Virginian to get their shot,” Northam said in a statement. “The time for waiting is over.”
When the vaccines were first opened to school employees, the shots were not mandatory and the district didn’t collect data on staff vaccinations in the spring.
But that was before the delta variant.
“It is in my opinion, and looking at what [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and the state are doing now, we should be asking teachers to show proof that they’ve been vaccinated,” Henderson said. “And if they’re not vaccinated, I think we should require them to be tested in a systematic way.”
McKeever quickly made the motion after Henderson’s suggestion and voted unanimously in support.
McKeever said the requirement would keep buildings and the community safe.
Henderson said the month’s notice for employees should give the division time to put everything in place and make everyone aware of the requirement.
“By that time, I think we should have some further information from the state on how they’re doing that,” he said.