West Tisbury votes in vaccine mandate

Town employees have until Sept. 30 to prove vaccination. 

Labor counsel Jack Collins provided the mandate language the select board and other boards and committees adopted Wednesday evening. — Screenshot

Updated 3:35 pm

At a large joint meeting, the West Tisbury select board and most other town elected boards voted Wednesday evening to require COVID-19 vaccinations for town employees. The votes came following a recommendation by the board of health. 

Health agent Omar Johnson told those on the Zoom, “we’re in our third highest spike since the pandemic began.”

As of Wednesday, 48 new positive test results were reported — five on Sunday, 11 on Monday, 10 on Tuesday, and 22 on Wednesday. 

Last week cases peaked, with 87 reported by the Martha’s Vineyard boards of health — 39 more cases than the previous week.

Each board or committee followed the select board in voting in favor of the mandate, including the planning board, the parks and recreation committee, and the finance committee. The board of assessors was the only board that didn’t vote in favor, following a split vote. Board member Maria McFarland voted in favor of the mandate, while chair Michael Colaneri voted against it. Board member Richard Cohen wasn’t present to break the deadlock.

Town labor counsel Jack Collins gave advice throughout the meeting, and provided the language the boards and committees voted on.

“I move that this board or committee adopt a rule that as a condition of employment,” Collins said, “all employees, which include volunteers and interns under our jurisdiction, shall have proof of full COVID vaccination by Sept. 30th, 2021, and that any requests for a medical or religious objection be submitted to the office of the town administrator.”

Collins specified proof would be showing a card that indicates full vaccination. He also noted there are two exemptions, medical and religious.

Select board member Kent Healy was hesitant to support the mandate, but ultimately did. 

Select board chair Skipper Manter said anything the town can do to reduce this infection rate “is something we have to do.”

Even though the board of health already recommended the mandate, it voted in favor too, in order to adopt the specific language Collins had given. 

On Thursday, town administrator Jennifer Rand told The Times the mandate doesn’t encompass staff at the West Tisbury School because they are part of a district, and therefore are governed by the superintendent of schools. Rand also said the vote doesn’t include elected officials.

Updated with weekly COVID numbers. — Ed.


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