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Mandatory vaccination policy announced for Baltimore city employees

“Protecting the health of our workforce, residents, and their loved ones is my top priority,” says Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott. (AP File Photo)

City of Baltimore employees will be required to be fully vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing in order to report to work.

The new police announced Tuesday by Mayor Brandon Scott goes into effect on Oct. 18.

“Protecting the health of our workforce, residents, and their loved ones is my top priority. As we continue to navigate this pandemic — all while working to restore critical in-person access and assistance for Baltimoreans — the steps we take today to slow the spread of COVID-19 and the Delta variant could not be more important,” Scott said in a statement. “I thank our city employees for continuing to provide high quality service during these unprecedented times, and look forward to working hand-in-hand with our health department to work towards vaccinating everyone who is not currently vaccinated.”

Scott’s announcement makes the city the latest to impose a mandatory vaccination or test policy, following Anne Arundel County, a number of local school systems as well as hospitals, nursing homes and congregate facilities operated by the state.

The new policy comes as the city begins to reopen to some in-person services. Masks are already required to be worn indoors regardless of vaccination status.

But cases of COVID-19 continue to climb to levels higher than the same time a year ago, driven by the the Delta variant and the vulnerability to infection of those who are unvaccinated.

Baltimore and 21 of the state’s 24 major political subdivisions are considered areas of high transmission for the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two other counties — Kent and Talbot — are above the agency’s threshold for substantial transmission.

City official estimate that unvaccinated persons accounted for more than 94% of all cases and 95% of all COVID-related deaths since January.

The new city policy will apply to all employees, including part-time, contractual and probationary employees as well as the police and fire departments.

Employees and their families who need to be vaccinated can get the shot at one of 10 city-sponsored vaccination clinics scheduled for the fall. The city will also hold testing clinics offering free testing at some city facilities.

So far, many vaccine requirements across the country are coming from hospitals and from private companies with employees who have mostly been able to work from home during the pandemic. The companies, including major tech companies and investment banks, have workforces that are already largely vaccinated and consider the requirement a key step toward eventually reopening offices.

Many large retailers, grocery store chains, food manufacturers and other companies have aggressively encouraged vaccinations with bonuses, time off, information campaigns and on-site vaccination access. But they have not imposed mandates.

A poll released last week showed that half of U.S. workers are in favor of vaccine requirements at their workplaces, according to a new poll, at a time when such mandates gain traction following the federal government’s full approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that about 59% of remote workers favor vaccine requirements in their own workplaces, compared with 47% of those who are currently working in person. About one-quarter of workers — in person and remote — are opposed.

The poll was conducted before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted full approval of Pfizer’s vaccine, which some experts and employers hope will persuade more people to get the shot and support mandates.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.