Town Manager Andy Nota told town department heads today that all employees – police, fire and municipal – must show proof of vaccination or must wear a medical-grade mask at work at all times and be tested for COVID-19 twice a week. The order was effective immediately.
Nota said the new order will only affect around 10 employees because most town employees – the town has about 150 – have been vaccinated. Many town employees were among the first to get vaccinated by working the town vaccine clinics that started in late December.
Nota said the employees’ willingness to get the vaccine early helped the town.
“This is the main reason why we were able to maintain operations throughout even heightened COVID periods avoiding most outbreak scenarios and in continuing to provide services,” he said via email.
The new policy coincides with a state Department of Health mandate requiring all licensed health care professionals to be vaccinated by Oct. 1 or risk losing their license. That mandate includes EG firefighters, who are licensed through the state as emergency medical services workers. According to Fire Chief Bernie Patenaude, all EGFD personnel had received at least one shot of the vaccine by Thursday, Sept. 30.
The Rhode Island Firefighters Association had challenged that mandate in court but lost. EGFD union president Bill Perry said EG firefighters are part of a different firefighters association – the Professional Firefighters of Rhode Island – which did not challenge the mandate.
The choice to receive medical treatment or not is personal and private. Government has no business requesting private medical information and it is a disgrace that people who choose not to provide their information will be ‘marked’ with useless masks. I am not advocating for or against receiving the vaccine – this is about privacy. The vaccine does not keep a person from getting or transmitting the flu so what’s the difference with or without it.