Submitted by the City of Bellingham, written by Janice Keller

Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood announced today he has signed an emergency order that makes obtaining a COVID-19 vaccination a condition of employment for all City employees. 

To date, 79 percent of the City’s approximately 975 employees have voluntarily reported to City officials that they are vaccinated, Fleetwood said.

Under the Mayor’s emergency order, all City employees must receive their final dose and provide proof of vaccination no later than November 19, 2021, to be considered fully vaccinated no later than December 3, 2021.

The order applies to all City employees as well as volunteers and contractors entering into new agreements under which individuals will be working inside City facilities, Fleetwood said.

“By this order I am committing the City to join the growing alliance of organizations, both public and private, who understand that the pathway to defeating COVID-19 is getting people vaccinated,” Fleetwood said. “We are facing the worst pandemic in modern history. Our hospitals are filling, we are experiencing record numbers of illnesses and rising deaths, and now cases are increasing in our schools.”

“It is clear our return to normalcy requires firm action on all our parts. I hope taking this step within our City government will inspire other organizations to take similar actions as well. Public health officials at all levels have been clear that vaccination is one of the most important steps we can take to fight this pandemic. They have determined the vaccines are safe, highly effective, and reduce the number of infections and the severity of illness,” he said.

Timeline

The timeline outlined by Mayor Fleetwood’s order includes the following steps:

  • Employees seeking reasonable accommodations for legitimate medical reasons or sincerely held religious beliefs may apply for an accommodation no later than close of business on October 15.
  • As a condition of employment, City employees must provide proof of having completed vaccination against COVID-19 no later than close of business on November 19, except those who have received accommodations.
  • An employee is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after the single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine, which according to the timeline above is no later than December 3.

Consequences

Fleetwood said his order establishes the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment. Employees who are not vaccinated, or have not been granted an exemption and accommodation, will be deemed not meeting a condition of employment. Customary discipline steps will be followed that will most likely end in termination of the employee. 

Federal and state requirements

Mayor Fleetwood’s order complements the federal and state requirements recently issued by President Joe Biden and Governor Jay Inslee.

  • Governor Jay Inslee issued a proclamation on August 9, 2021, requiring all employees, on-site independent contractors, volunteers, goods and services providers, and appointees of designated state agencies to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 on or before October 18, 2021, and encouraged local governments to adopt a vaccine mandate. Fleetwood said 160 City employees are subject to Governor Inslee’s order, including uniformed firefighters, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, and fleet mechanics.
  • President Joe Biden on September 9, 2021, ordered all federal government employees to be vaccinated and further ordered the Department of Labor to issue an emergency temporary standard that requires employers with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccination against COVID-19 or conduct weekly testing of unvaccinated employees. President Biden encouraged private employers and local governments to adopt vaccine mandates as well.

Featured photo courtesy of the Whatcom County Health Department

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