The West Tisbury select board voted unanimously on Wednesday to enact a town hall vaccination mandate — a move that now covers all employees working inside the building. The mandate requires all town employees to be vaccinated by Sept. 30. School employees are not covered by the mandate.
Wednesday’s vote comes one week after the select board and several other elected boards and committees approved a mandate for all town employees to be vaccinated. Because the board of assessors had only two of three board members and the vote was split on enacting the mandate last week, select board chair Skipper Manter said the additional vote was meant as a safeguard to cover all town employees.
Ahead of Wednesday’s vote, select board member Cynthia Mithchell said she believed the scope of the town hall mandate should exclude general visitors due to “the difficulty that it would pose for town hall staff to check everyone who comes in from the public.”
Town labor counsel Jack Collins told the board the unvaccinated may be able to work from another location. “Now the question is, Since they can’t enter the building, and their job requires them to be in the building, will the town talk to them about somewhere they might be able to do their job elsewhere?” Collins said.
If such accommodations aren’t doable, Collins said, an unpaid leave of absence was the likely prospect for such an employee. If there’s no resolution going forward, Collins suggested termination was an option.
“I think there should be exemptions that would allow people to work in town hall,” select board member Kent Healy said. “I mean, if you’re talking about herd immunity and more than 80 percent of everybody’s vaccinated, then maybe it’s OK if there’s one or fewer people. I don’t think we can make complete rules like this without knowing the situation.”
“Except we voted unanimously last week to do that,” Mitchell said. “Provided that certain exemptions could be looked at, everyone had to be vaccinated.”
Healy said those exemptions might allow someone to work in town hall. Mitchell said no.
Collins said there may be a rare circumstance where a person has a legitimate exemption, like being allergic to the vaccine, and has a job where they could sequester themselves in an office in town hall and not interact with people. “That would be an unusual situation, but you have to be at least open to that possibility,” Collins said.
In the course of discussion, Collins drafted a motion for the town hall mandate, and eventually read it aloud ahead of the board’s vote.
“All town employees conducting town business while at the town hall, at a time when other town employees are in the building, must be fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus no later than Sept. 30, 2021,” Collins said. “Any applications for exemption for medical or religious reasons shall be submitted to the office of the town administrator who shall, in cooperation with the town special labor counsel, investigate and make a report to the board of selectmen and the appointing authority with a recommendation for accommodation.”