Mayor Kenney mandates COVID-19 vaccines for all city employees by mid-January

Dr. Cheryl Bettigole speaks from a podium while wearing a face mask

Philadelphia’s Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Mayor Jim Kenney has announced that all Philadelphia city employees and contractors must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 14, reversing a policy allowing unvaccinated workers to wear two masks at work.

This comes two weeks after the city quietly rolled out a vaccine mandate for all non-union city workers — a group of about 4,000 municipal staff — by December 1.

Today’s new mandate includes union-represented city employees and certain city contractors regardless of the location of work, including part-time, seasonal, and temporary City employees. Previously, the city’s vaccine mandate only applied to health care workers and non-represented employees.

“As public servants, we bear a responsibility to mitigate the harm that would result from inadvertent transmission of COVID-19 to our colleagues and the public and to set an example for other organizations and companies. We owe it to our city—and to ourselves—to do all we can to keep us all safe,” said Kenney in a statement.

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The city is advising its employees that they are required to be fully inoculated against COVID-19 and provide proof of their vaccination status, or be granted an exemption to the vaccination requirements by January 14, 2022, or risk losing their positions.

The city is offering religious and medical exemptions, but will not be given the option to opt-out. Those qualifying for exemptions will be required to undergo routine COVID tests.

City employees are currently represented by four labor unions. The largest of which, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 33, has previously stated it won’t object if Kenney installs a vaccine mandate for municipal employees.

The Fraternal Order of Police, however, has indicated otherwise.

“Any vaccine mandate is subject to bargaining and this is specifically covered under our recent contract. The FOP is going back before the contract arbitration panel, which has jurisdiction over any mandate,” John McNesby, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 President told WHYY.

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He said the FOP is currently considering pursuing litigation to combat the mandate.

In October, the city revealed that just one in 10 Philadelphia police officers, and less than a quarter of all firefighters had submitted proof of vaccination.

To incentivize the mandate, the city says all permanent City employees who have completed both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and provide proof by December 24, 2021 will receive a bonus of up to $300. This includes City employees who have previously received their full schedule of vaccinations.

The bonus does not extend to employees receiving an exemption to the vaccine requirements, employees working less than 20 hours per week, and city contractors being covered by the new mandate policy.

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