All executive staff in Allegheny County’s government will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 soon, but don’t expect neighboring counties to follow suit.
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced Wednesday that workers under his leadership must be fully vaccinated or terminated by December 1, although the order does not include other employees, such as those who work in the courthouse.
“As we continue to see cases of COVID in our county and affect different populations than before, it is even more important that our workforce is protected so that the public we serve is also protected,” said Fitzgerald in a written statement. “This is the right thing for our district and our workforce.”
About 75% of all employees in the district government’s executive are already fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to district officials. The district required from August that all new employees must be vaccinated.
While area officials in Fayette, Greene and Washington counties said they are monitoring the situation, there are no plans to require a vaccine for their government employees.
However, Washington County has offered anyone who can prove they are vaccinated a half-day sick day “incentive” to give workers time to get the vaccinations. So far, 314 of around 860 part-time and full-time workers have provided proof of vaccination, although Shelli Arnold County HR director said that number could be higher as they don’t have to prove their status. But even if only 36% of the county’s workforce is known to be vaccinated, there are no plans to commission it.
Commission chair Diana Irey Vaughan said they follow state and federal health guidelines and require unvaccinated workers to quarantine themselves at home if they come in contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 . If a non-vaccinated employee misses the time, this employee must be put on sick leave by the district during his absence.
“They really work on the front lines and are with people every day,” said Irey Vaughan.
Despite not prescribing the vaccine, Irey Vaughan and Commissioners Nick Sherman and Larry Maggi are trying to set an example for the county staff by vaccinating themselves. Irey Vaughan and Sherman announced in April that they would be vaccinated, while Maggi received his two doses last summer while participating in Pfizer’s clinical trial in Columbus, Ohio. Maggi said last week he still hasn’t received a booster shot while he remains in the study.
“The decision to get us vaccinated was a lead by example,” said Irey Vaughan, adding that she had also recently received a flu vaccine. “We have a very strong wellness program (in Washington County). My opinion was that the COVID vaccine was another step in wellbeing. “
Jeff Marshall, Greene County’s chief clerk, said there were no plans to require the vaccine for county employees, which is a decision that is ultimately up to the commissioners. Marshall added that the district chiefs do not “track” employees’ vaccination status or ask for vaccination records.
“We evaluate things day in and day out and see how things go,” said Marshall. “You watch it every day, but nothing is imminent.”
Greene County Commission chairman Mike Belding said they recommend employees follow federal and state health guidelines, but they have no plans to go beyond that as the county doesn’t have its own health department. If the guidelines of these agencies change, the county will notify its workers of the updated guidelines, he said.
“That was our attitude from the start. We don’t have a health department in the county so we refer them to the educated authorities (agencies) above us … and we leave it at that, ”Belding said.
The county doesn’t expect to offer an incentive program for employees to get vaccinated, Belding said, as vaccinations are now widespread. He refused to reveal whether he was vaccinated and preferred to keep this information private.
“The vaccine has been available for so long, I can’t imagine they didn’t have time to get it. I don’t see any need for it, ”said Belding. “You can make your own decisions.”
Belding’s counterpart in Fayette County, Commission Chairman Dave Lohr, agreed, saying there would be no government employee mandate.
“I will not award a mandate,” said Lohr, emphasizing that he was speaking for himself and not on behalf of the other two commissioners. “I feel like it is each person’s decision (whether) to get an injection or not. This is my opinion.”
Fayette County’s Director of Human Resources, Cristi Spiker, reiterated this in a statement emailed, saying they will continue to follow federal regulations currently in force.
“The federal vaccine mandates are being developed under OSHA,” Spiker said. “Local and state governments are not subject to OSHA regulations, so the county doesn’t have to comply.”