Almost all Milwaukee council members were vaccinated before the deadline

Thirteen of the 15 members of the Milwaukee Joint Council say they have received coronavirus vaccines as city workers face a mandate to get vaccinated by the end of this week or lose their jobs.

Alds. Milele Coggs and Khalif Rainey declined to say if they had been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Elected officials are not subject to the city’s requirement to present proof of vaccination or obtain an exemption before the Friday deadline.

“I’d rather keep this private,” Rainey told The Sentinel Journal when asked if he had received a vaccine.

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In contrast, most of his colleagues seemed anxious to confirm that they had received the vaccine, along with Ald. Nik Kovac even took out his vaccination card uninvited.

But that doesn’t mean the entire council is in complete agreement with the municipal workers’ mandate – or how it was deployed by Mayor Tom Barrett’s administration.

“It sounds pretty harsh,” Ald said. Mark Borkowski, who was vaccinated even with the waivers. “I don’t understand it.”

Ald. Chantia Lewis said she felt the city had not pushed enough to push for the vaccine before demanding it.

“We absolutely have to do something to keep everyone safe, so at this point we had to put measures in place,” said Lewis, including the entire household except for his daughter, who is too young, was vaccinated.

But the majority of council members were unequivocal in their position.

“It’s time for us to take the science around vaccinations seriously,” Ald said. Ashanti Hamilton said.

Ald. Scott Spiker, who said he had uploaded his immunization status to the city’s system, called the warrant an effort to “bend the curve” of cases.

Barrett, who was vaccinated in February and received a booster this fall, announced in late August that his administration would implement a vaccination mandate for city workers not represented by the police and firefighters unions. There are exemptions for religious or medical reasons.

City workers have until Friday to provide proof of vaccination

The requirement went into effect on September 1, and employees have until Friday to provide proof of vaccination to the city.

Employees who fail to comply will first be suspended without pay for up to 30 days and if they fail to comply they will be fired, the city previously said.

The suspensions will begin after Friday, employee relations department director Makda Fessahaye told Journal Sentinel.

As of October 22, about 2,009 of the 3,189 employees of the “general city” were vaccinated, meaning that the figure does not include employees of the police or fire department.

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The Employee Relations Department had received 264 requests for accommodation for religious or medical reasons, of which 141 were approved, 24 refused and 99 pending.

Overall, nearly 65% ​​of municipal workers in general are in compliance with the policy, including those who have been vaccinated and those who have been granted exemptions.

According to city data, as of October 21, 58% of Milwaukee residents aged 16 or older were fully immunized.

The city also had a rate of 181.6 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over seven days, a rate that places the city in the “extreme transmission” category. That figure, however, has been declining from a peak in mid-September.

Coggs, who declined to say whether she had been vaccinated, said she believed her status was a private decision. Regarding the mandate, she said her biggest concern was worker safety, but also that the requirement did not disproportionately impact a group of employees.

“I also think that cannot be our only way of seeing how to keep people safe here,” she said.

Other methods include public engagement and building modifications, she said.

Ald. José Pérez, who was vaccinated, said he supported the requirement.

And while he said he had concerns about the number of employees who could be fired for non-compliance, he said: “You have a choice and if you fit any of the exemptions you have to. exercise your right to do so “.

Milwaukee Common Council Chairman Cavalier Johnson joined Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley and County Board Chair Marcelia Nicholson to get their shots on camera this spring to help them get their shots. encourage others to follow their example.

“The city has a responsibility to make sure that we protect the health and general well-being of this community, and there is a deadly communicable disease there,” he said. “So if our employees – especially those who interact with the public – are not vaccinated, it puts them and the people we all serve at needlessly higher risk. “

Contact Alison Dirr at 414-224-2383 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @AlisonDirr.

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