Providence city employees must now get vaccinated to keep their jobs.
On Tuesday, Mayor Jorge Elorza announced that the city had updated its COVID vaccination policy, which requires all employees to provide proof of at least one vaccination by Jan. 14, 2022, and finish their primary series by Feb. 28, 2022. That means either two doses of Pfizer or Moderna, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson, though the CDC has recommended the first two options over the latter.
The policy change means employees will no longer be allowed to opt for weekly PCR testing. Those who do not comply and do not have approved exemptions will be fired, the city said.
In a statement, Elorza emphasized the safety and effectivity of vaccines, and suggested that the state's spike in infections prompted the city to rewrite the rules.
"A few days ago, 1,853 Rhode Islanders tested positive for COVID in a single day — a new record high for Rhode Island," the mayor said. "With cases continuing to rise and our hospital infrastructure facing continued strain, we need strong public health measures and policies in place to increase vaccination rates and reduce the likelihood of hospitalization for those who contract the virus."
According to data provided by the city, 86% of employees are fully vaccinated, while 45% are partially vaccinated and 15% are unvaccinated. Among sworn Providence police officers, 77% are fully vaccinated, 20% are unvaccinated, and 3% fall into a "Not Applicable" category due to being out of work or on military leave, for example.
The Providence Journal has reached out to Providence firefighters union President Derek Silva and Providence police union President Michael Imondi for comment.
In the past, Imondi criticized Elorza's previous policy that required vaccinations or weekly tests for city employees. Pushing back against the rules, Imondi argued in August that shots "shouldn't be forced upon them."
In addition to showing proof of vaccination, employees must fill out attestation forms and submit them to their supervisors. Those forms are then given to Human Resources for tracking.
Employees may seek exemptions to the vaccination rule by submitting a request though the Department of Human Resources. Those who receive such exemptions must submit negative PCR tests each week.
Rhode Island is currently in high transmission of the virus, with nearly 770 cases per 100,000 people within the past week — more than seven times the threshold for that category. More than 3,000 deaths across the state have been reported.
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