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Commissioners in the city of Gainesville vote to approve a vaccine mandate for all city employees

Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 11:46 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -Gainesville leaders are setting their own rules as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, filling up hospital beds across North Central Florida. Commissioners are mandating that all city employees get the COVID-19 vaccine.

These changes come just hours after Alachua County Commission Chair Ken Cornell issued a “State of Emergency.”

The city commission voted unanimously to support the charter officer’s masking requirement for employees and the public. They are also asking the city clerk to draft a resolution asking employers to mandate vaccines for employees and ask members of the public to get vaccinated and wear a mask indoors.

“The Governor of Florida is no longer entered in my mind as a person of sound mind. Whatever orders he is putting out, I’m just not interested. I think we should pursue an ordinance that includes public health safety mandates, that includes a mask order, and encourages employees or rather businesses to requires vaccination and masking at the same time,” explained Commissioner David Arreola.

RELATED STORY: Alachua County reissues “state of emergency” due to COVID-19 spike

Charter officers are now tasked with creating and implementing a plan that would require all city employees to receive the vaccine unless there is an ADA or medical exemption.

“We need to combat this, and the best way to combat this is with vaccines,” said Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos. “People who are going to hospitals the vast, vast majority of them are unvaccinated.”

The final vote to mandate vaccines was 4 to 3, with Commissioner Gail Johnson, Commissioner Harvey Ward, and Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker voting in dissent.

At the meeting, the commission voted unanimously to give a PTO day to all vaccinated employees. However, union representatives at the meeting were not necessarily for implementing the vaccine requirement for all employees.

“Us like CWA, most of our members are against it even if they have already been vaccinated. We are against anyone telling them what they have to put in their body,” said the representative of the FOP.

Employee Health Services will create and implement a plan to encourage employees to get vaccinated, and they will also work with unions. Commissioners voted 7-0 to direct the city attorney to draft an ordinance that would allow the city manager to introduce public health measures such as PPE requirements, social distancing, occupancy limits, among other measures.

Charter officers will bring back a plan for employees to work virtually. Commissioners voted 6-1 with Commissioner Johnson in dissent to restrict travel for all non-vaccinated employees.

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