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Baltimore County to require county employee vaccinations

“While we are making considerable progress together, the rapid and ongoing spread of the delta variant demands that we take additional action to stop the spread and protect the health of both our employees and residents alike,” says Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

Baltimore County employees will have to prove their COVID-19 vaccination status or face weekly testing.

County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. coupled the announcement with an extension of outdoor dining for restaurants. The new policy brings the county in line with other jurisdictions already requiring employees to vaccinate or test.

“In local government, our work regularly brings us face-to-face with the people we serve,” said Olszewski. “As such, our employees are at greater risk of contracting the virus in addition to spreading the virus to fellow employees as well as the communities we serve. We have a responsibility to protect the health of our employees and our residents alike.”

Olszewski called on businesses in the county to require employees to get vaccinated.

Starting Oct. 15, county employees must prove their vaccination status. The rule applies to all full- and part-time county employees.

Workers who cannot get vaccinated or opt out will have to apply for a waiver. Those unvaccinated employees will have to show proof of a weekly negative test to report to work.

“While we are making considerable progress together, the rapid and ongoing spread of the delta variant demands that we take additional action to stop the spread and protect the health of both our employees and residents alike,” said Olszewski.

In Baltimore County, nearly 71% of residents 12 years old and older are fully vaccinated. The more than 501,000 fully vaccinated people is more than 60% of the county’s total population.

The county is above the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s substantial virus transmission threshold.

“But over the past two months we’ve also seen our case rates and hospitalizations continue to climb as the delta variant spreads throughout our communities in Baltimore County,” said Olszewski. “This rise in cases puts our most vulnerable at risk, especially our children under 12 who are not yet eligible for the vaccine and many of whom are not back in our schools five days a week.”

Olszewski earlier responded to rising cases by imposing a new state of emergency in his county. The Baltimore County Council last week extended that order for 30 days.

The executive Thursday issued an order continuing outdoor dining for restaurants in the county. A previous order was set to expire this week. The extension pushes the end date back 45 days after the end of the state of emergency.

Olszewski said the new vaccination policy is in line with what he said will apply to federal employees. President Joe Biden announced that policy Thursday.

Baltimore County is the fifth of the so-called Big Seven counties to issue a test or mandate policy for employees.

Olszewski called on state officials to adopt a similar policy. “Public health is a shared responsibility,” said Olszewski. “We can only put this pandemic behind us if all of us, all of us, do our part.”

A spokesman for the governor did not respond to questions about a statewide policy.

The state currently requires employees at congregate facilities to be vaccinated. Gov. Larry Hogan in May announced a $100 incentive for any vaccinated employee.

Here are recently announced vaccination policies from the state’s largest counties and the City of Baltimore:

  • Anne Arundel County: Employees must prove their vaccination status by Sept. 13 or provide a negative test weekly. The county is providing a $1,000-per-employee incentive to fully vaccinated employees.
  • Baltimore: Employees must prove their vaccination status by Oct. 18 or provide a negative test weekly. The policy applies to all full- and part-time, probationary, contractual, seasonal employees as well as police and firefighters.
  • Baltimore County: Employees must prove their vaccination status by Oct. 18 or provide a negative test weekly.
  • Montgomery County: Employees must prove their vaccination status by Sept. 18 or provide a negative test weekly.
  • Prince George’s County: Employees must prove their vaccination status by Oct. 3 or provide a negative test weekly.