With about 87% of its workforce fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Friday, the city of Annapolis will this week begin requiring employees who are not vaccinated to submit to weekly testing.
As of Friday, 594 of 680 active employees were currently vaccinated and had submitted their verification to the city, said Mitchelle Stephenson, a city spokesperson.
That leaves about 86 workers who have not yet submitted their vaccination status. About a quarter of those people have not done so because they are active military duty members or on long-term medical leave and won’t be required to do so until they have returned to work.
The remaining 63 employees will be required to submit weekly negative COVID-19 test results to a representative within their department. Employees have 96 hours to get tested and submit their results to a department representative each week. An email or text from the testing provider will suffice, Stephenson said.
The city offers periodic vaccination clinics, the next of which is scheduled for Friday and will provide booster shots from Pfizer and Moderna.
The city government’s vaccination rate far exceeds that of Anne Arundel County residents, which reported a rate of 62.5% as of Monday. Across Maryland, 67% of residents are fully vaccinated; 87.5% have received at least one shot, according to the Maryland Department of Health.
“We are doing pretty well,” Stephenson said. “It’s easy to see that getting vaccinated helps us serve our residents.”
Among officers in the Annapolis Police Department, about 82% are fully vaccinated. About 89% of the Annapolis Fire Department are fully vaccinated. Both those rates are likely higher in reality because of the number of active-duty military members in both departments, Stephenson said. The U.S. military has instituted a mandate for all personnel.
If an employee tests positive they are advised to follow protocols for self-isolating by the Anne Arundel County Health Department. The city provides two weeks of emergency leave for workers recovering from the disease. The city has not yet encountered any staffing issues related to positive COVID-19 cases, Stephenson said.
Anne Arundel County residents have also begun to receive COVID-19 booster shots. Last week, Maryland surpassed 500,000 such shots. The booster is not currently required for Annapolis workers.
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In September, Anne Arundel County implemented a cash bonus to employees who get vaccinated by Nov. 30. The one-time $1,000 payment is offered to the roughly 4,300 county employees plus temporary or contractual workers who worked more than 1,000 hours in fiscal 2020. The program is being paid for by funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.
“With cold and flu season rapidly approaching, we must do everything in our power to boost vaccination rates, and we believe that this program will do just that among our public servants,” Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman said in a statement at the time.
The county isn’t announcing the vaccination rate among its workers until after the Nov. 30 deadline to ensure as many county workers receive their shots, said Jeff Amoros, Pittman’s spokesperson.
County employees who have already been vaccinated are eligible for the program. Those who have not yet been vaccinated will have another two weeks to get vaccinated and upload their verification to a county portal. Employees who uploaded their full vaccination status between Sept. 20 and Nov. 30 will receive the $1,000 payment prior to Dec. 24. Workers who submitted their status by Sept. 20 received their check on Oct. 15.
The incentive program will delay the implementation of a mandatory testing program until after the incentive program ends.
“Our hope is that the increase in vaccinated employees will ultimately reduce the excessive costs, as well as the staffing and scheduling burdens associated with implementing a testing regimen for unvaccinated employees,” Chief Administrative Officer Matt Power said in September. “With a finite amount of resources and a clear public health goal — to get all eligible staff vaccinated as soon as possible — we’re focusing our efforts on increasing vaccinations and protecting our workforce.”
Annapolis doesn’t have any plans to institute such an incentive program, Stephenson said.