West Tisbury employee loses job over vaccine mandate

Proposed building department inspection fees approved; Howes House feasibility study article placed on the warrant.

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A West Tisbury employee will be leaving because of the town's COVID vaccine mandate. — Rich Saltzberg

A West Tisbury employee will be leaving her position with the town because of her “personal decision” not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The employee was not present during the meeting, though the board spoke openly about her, using her name and position.

While the West Tisbury select board revealed the name of the individual who chose not to be vaccinated, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s technical assistance release from May advises that an employee’s vaccination status must remain confidential as medical information, per the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Asked by phone why they spoke about the employee openly, West Tisbury town administrator Jennifer Rand said this “wasn’t inappropriate” since it was an employee breaking town policy rather than a discussion about a medical issue. Rand said if the topic was about a medical issue, the board would have gone into executive session.

The town implemented a vaccine mandate for its employees in August, who were given until Sept. 30 to become vaccinated or apply for either a religious or a medical exemption. West Tisbury strengthened the policy to a town hall mandate for workers in the building later in the month. In early September, West Tisbury added several more buildings to this mandate, including Howes House.

The Times, which has decided not to name the woman, reached out to her to ask why she made the decision, but she declined to comment, and hung up the phone. 

“People that chose not to get the vaccine had an opportunity to, I believe, to apply for one of two exemptions,” West Tisbury chair Skipper Manter said. “Also, there was an opportunity to make reasonable accommodations for individuals that chose not to get vaccinated but could still … perform the essential job without being actually present at their job.” 

Manter said the woman’s supervisor told the board that the remote work wasn’t working “about a third of the time,” and she “really needed a person in the building.” The supervisor requested that the woman stay with the department until she trained her replacement. The woman is willing to help with the training, including information technology work, before she is terminated. The woman will continue working remotely during that time.

Select board member Cynthia Mitchell made a motion to allow the woman to work remotely until her replacement has been hired and trained. The board unanimously approved the motion.

In other business, the board unanimously approved adding the select board report to the West Tisbury town report. A decision on the cemetery report was delayed to give Manter time to properly read it. 

The board unanimously approved an increase to the West Tisbury building department’s inspection fees by $5 to support the inspectors’ pay raise. 

Meanwhile, the board unanimously approved the Howes House feasibility study committee’s request to place an article on the town meeting warrant. The article would allow the committee to get an architect to “work the feasibility study” and possibly make construction documents from the study. Articles for the warrant are due by Feb. 15, according to Rand. In full disclosure, Manter said both he and Mitchell both serve on that committee. 

The town will be looking for a new member of the Howes House feasibility committee. Mitchell will be stepping down because she was not able to attend the meetings because of conflicting schedules with her work. 

The board unanimously approved the West Tisbury finance committee’s recommendation to use excess and deficiencies (E and D) funds to reduce the Up-Island Regional School District budget’s assessment. Manter expressed some resistance to the idea. He and Up-Island school committee member Robert Lionette said in past meetings that using E and D funds was an irresponsible way to cover parts of the budget. However, he was supportive of using E and D on the assessment. 

“I’m really caving in here,” Manter said with a chuckle. “Better be careful, my reputation is at stake, whatever that is.”

The town also received a letter from the Coalition to Create the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank member Laura Silber to request a change on how bonding is voted. Doug Ruskin, a member of the coalition steering committee, explained that the change is to make the town advisory board’s deciding vote a two-thirds majority instead of a simple majority. The board decided to place it on next week’s agenda so the public has a chance to hear the change of this “popular topic.” 

37 COMMENTS

  1. I am not at all involved with the school’s budget any more, but my understanding from my years on the school committee is that it is not recommended to use E and D funds to lower the school’s budget. The auditors recommended keeping at least 3 month’s funding in Excess and Deficiency lines in case of emergencies. This keeps the town’s ratings at a sufficient level to decrease any borrowing fees that might be needed. Since I have no idea how much of the E and D funds are to be used, I can’t really comment other than to say, don’t use it all!!!! It is like an insurance policy for funding in case of trouble. Any excess beyond a certain amount always is returned to the town at the end of the year anyway.

  2. The town is free to require certain conditions of employment. Like not showing up drunk, for instance.
    If you don’t want to accept the terms of employment, you don’t have to.
    Everyone is free to decide what to put into their bodies.

    • And it costs the town a lot more for health insurance if employees have babies. Where will this invasion of privacy end? Oh, and spare me the knee jerk reaction the unvaccinated spread the virus.

  3. Has it been proven the vaccine lowers or prevents the spreading of Covid? Not that I can find. Vaccines might reduce or lessen hospital stays, but not transmission. So why fire someone who is not contributing to an increase in the spread of a virus?

    • Not true. The vaxed have lower viral loads and viral loads are the biggest factor in how likely you are to spread covid to others. This is a fact!

    • Mark– has it been proven that the vaccine doesn’t lower the spreading of infection ?
      Is there any evidence that transmission is more likely between unvaxxed to unvaxxed, or vaxxed to vaxxed ? The short answer is yes, but it is not overwhelming, and does not fall into the realm of “proof”
      Just following you own statement–forget transmission– why would the town employ someone who is 11 times more likely to be hospitalized if they contracted this ?

    • Interesting point. I do find it bizarre when people look at unvaccinated people as vectors of infection when were told at the same time that even if you’re vaccinated, you can keep spreading it. It seems that the unvaccinated are the ones taking the onus of the risk and the only one affected by their choice… Is them.

      • “It seems that the unvaccinated are the ones taking the onus of the risk and the only one affected by their choice… Is them.”

        Nothing could be further from the truth. This has been discussed numerous times. The willfully unvaccinated are harming an endless list of people. There’s a domino effect in evidence that’s costing lives.

        When they get sick, they don’t handle it themselves. They expect others to take on personal risk to care for them. Medical workers, including hospital staff and EMTs, have to be in unusually close contact with overwhelming numbers of the unvaxxed. They make up the majority of those flooding hospitals with COVID. PPE and vaccines help, but when you’re constantly exposed to a variant this transmissible at this concentration, especially while performing certain procedures, there are going to be breakthrough infections.

        This exposure has led to staffing shortages within the health care field. Employees are getting sick. Given the prevalence of long COVID, this puts their future health on the line. Many doctors and nurses have already died over the past two years. Some feel pressured to keep working in areas where there’s no backup team.

        https://www.statnews.com/2021/10/21/who-estimate-115000-health-workers-have-died-from-covid-19-as-calls-for-vaccine-access-grow/

        Hospitals are, in a sense, self-selecting venues. The sickest and most vulnerable to COVID have to utilize them for conditions unrelated to the pandemic. Staying home is not always an option. In some places, they’re being treated by the same workers who are overexposed to the virus and/or working while ill.

        Next, factor in that some of the most vulnerable can’t be vaccinated at all for valid medical reasons. They don’t have any protection from those who refuse to take basic precautions like the shot.

        There are other folks who can and have received the vaccine but who won’t get the full benefits of it. Their immune systems are unable to mount a strong defense due to pre-existing issues. This is, of course, not the fault of the vaccine or the patients.

        Pediatric hospitals have been filling up with COVID patients since summer. There is no vaccine for kids under the age of five. Their health is dependent on the actions of adults. Vax rates for older children are less than optimal. More and more are being admitted every day. Kids who were able to weather COVID at home have become chronically ill later. This may occur even if their COVID symptoms were mild. It has also been proven that unvaxxed mothers can harm their babies.

        https://amp.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/jan/20/us-children-covid-vaccinations-cases-hospitalizations

        Willfully unvaxxed patients — I’m using this wording to distinguish them from the medical exceptions — are taking up the majority of beds in a lot of locations. Other patients presenting with emergencies, including the vulnerable mentioned above, can lose out on crucial care or require distant transfer. This costs valuable time. The system is overwhelmed. The National Guard was sent in to assist for good reason. That alone should be a sobering wake-up call. It’s been largely ignored.

        https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2022/01/09/politics/national-guard-hospitals-omicron-covid-massachusetts/index.html

        There are secondary losses when it comes to these waves of unvaxxed patients, too. Wellness appointments and certain surgeries have to be canceled. In the past, this has led to missed or late cancer diagnoses, among other things. Patients who need routine care but are very high risk are sometimes afraid to visit the hospital or their doctors.

        There’s this ultra-significant point again. When we fail to get vaccinated and mask, we spread more disease. That gives the virus a better chance of becoming a new variant and outwitting the vaccines altogether someday. Some experts think Omicron could’ve been avoided if everyone had pulled in the right direction.

        https://www.webmd.com/vaccines/covid-19-vaccine/news/20210730/threat-of-vaccine-proof-covid-variant

        Other prolonged issues stemming from the pandemic — poverty, grief, poor mental health, disability — can be traced back to an unwillingness to tackle this with the tools at our disposal. The unvaxxed and unmasked have managed to keep only one thing alive and well — the virus itself.

  4. Newsflash, the vaccinated are LESS likely to contract and spread Omicron than the unvaccinated! This is an actual fact unlike your assertion! It is also a fact that the vaccinated are much less likely to be hospitalized or die than the unvaccinated!

  5. I disagree that the MV Times has placed itself as the defender of persons who may or may not be under the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Not only is that an unresolved issue, not determined by the courts, but you compromised your journalism ethics, by suppressing the information already widely circulated in the public records and realm.
    This sets a very bad precedent for reliance on the MV Times as being able to objectively and impartially report on matters of public interest.
    It leaves you open to inferences of some corrupt bargain for your willingness to suppress the public records.
    If you are willing to operate as a self-appointed defender of the ADA here, when is one to know in future articles that you have left your role as reporting the facts on matters of public interest?

    • James– Interesting point about “Americans with disabilities act”. It’s obvious that anyone who is able and refuses to vaccinate at this point, clearly had some sort of disability.
      I can actually almost buy the argument that they are being discriminated against because of that disability. It’s better than most.

  6. Mike– could you link us to some of these studies that “prove” your point ? You can save your time and ours if you are going post something that shows a slight correlation one way or the other. Also– please don’t try to convince us with an opinion piece from some radical web site.
    PROOF please– if you can’t provide proof, please provide at least something reputable to show some evidence of your assertion.
    Just a quick google search comes up with this from the state of Virginia :
    https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/see-the-numbers/covid-19-in-virginia/covid-19-cases-by-vaccination-status/
    spoiler alert, about one page down shows the graph showing that there are 4.4 times as many cases among the unvaxxed. This despite the fact that 68% of the population of Virginia is fully vaccinated.
    https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/see-the-numbers/covid-19-in-virginia/covid-19-cases-by-vaccination-status/
    Let me state that I did one google search here and looked at the top return — I did not cherry pick my information.
    And , please , Mike– don’t embarrass yourself by trying to convince anyone that being vaccinated does not reduce the risk of the seriousness of contracting this disease.
    Of course , having said that, I will be willing to look at anything you put up.
    But be advised, whatever you post here, I will research it and post my opinions based on the facts that I find.
    If we are to have a rational debate, we should debate based on verifiable facts.

    • honestly – why bother ? This mindset is only changeable when it’s their turn for the ventilator. Vaccination cards for all, and DNI cards for the non-exempt others.

      • Mike– It would be nice if you bothered to back up some of your claims. Otherwise, some people here might think that you are just making stuff up to “prove” your opinion.
        Misinformation is, in my opinion, the reason we are going into the third year of this pandemic with little hope of ending it anytime soon.

    • If one has a contrarian opinion one needs to show proof that is is not from a far right rag and it has to be ”reliable” which is highly subjective. And then when references are shown, then those facts are ”underwhelming”. Some Posters on this site are the arbiters of ”truth” based upon their own links and some just say ”you are wrong” with out saying why.

      • There aren’t two sets of rules. Everyone should be happy to offer up their sources if a study is supposedly being referenced as proof. How else can we know what to examine and discuss? The vast majority of those who make “contrarian” claims provide nothing more than opinions and try to pass them off as facts. Every time I’ve seen a link posted, I read it, regardless of the source. I also try to provide links when I can. Peer-reviewed data that continues to be replicated in action is a lot more likely to contain objective truth than no data at all. There is no explaining away what is happening in hospitals and funeral homes. Is that subjective, too? No. Just ignored. Always ignored. Why is that?

      • Andy– you are wrong most of the time because you do not know the difference between a verifiable fact and the opinion of deceitful people.
        I did not say that Mikes opinion was wrong.
        I asked him to show us these so called studies and some proof that what he was saying is accurate. .I could not find anything that would back up his claim. In fact , I easily found verifiable statistics that clearly showed that what he asserted was in fact not true. And I told him why….
        He confidently asserted what he portrayed as factual and provable and I called him on it. I was polite enough to not even say that what he said was a flat out lie. I would very much like to see these studies.
        You know you and your ilk run around acting like martyrs whenever someone calls out obvious lies. You are entitled to your opinions but it is morally reprehensible to make up your own “facts” and portray them as truth.
        And let me back that “morally reprehensible “comment with a source that I am sure you think is truthful.
        Proverbs 12:22 — “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy” —
        and in Proverbs 25:1: “Telling lies about others is as harmful as hitting them with an ax, wounding them with a sword, or shooting them with a sharp arrow.

  7. As a taxpayer, I prefer not to pay the excess healthcare costs associated with unvaccinated employees, just as I wouldn’t want to pay for the workman’s comp of motorcycle cop that refused to wear a helmet. Basic job safety requirements.

    • What about the excess healthcare costs of a woman who wants a bunch of kids? Are you against women in general?

      • “Woman who wants to have a bunch of kids” cannot “have” said “bunch of kids” all by herself. Unless you believe all women are Virgin Marys. Or maybe you’re advocating for mandatory vasectomies? There is so much nonsense embedded in your comment that it defies all reason.

    • As a taxpayer, I prefer not to pay the excess healthcare costs associated with obese, diabetic, alcoholic, and drug-addicted employees. All preventable health issues.

      • That’s incorrect, Peter. Those are not all preventable. Why do people with no knowledge of biology or medicine always seem to make the most bold statements? I don’t care enough to understand Bitcoin, so you won’t find me advising anyone about it.

  8. A vaccine passport would make everyone feel safer.
    No one sets foot on this island without one. If you are already here, you cannot shop for anything without one.
    Should force everyone to get the Lyme vaccine as well.

  9. The amount of time and energy devoted to dealing with the unvaccinated is beyond tiresome. I’m glad West Tisbury took this action but wish the MV Times would have identified the employee so we could evasive action if necessary.

  10. I wouldn’t trust the passport card Dennis. I would think a chip installed in the hand would be best. That would do away with counterfeit card problems and protect your little precious island. I can’t believe some of these comments, absolutely insane !

  11. If you choose to remain unvaccinated in a global pandemic in which vaccines are available and proven to reduce the likelihood of infection, transmission and death, fine, make that choice. But stop whining when your choices have consequences. It’s irresponsible and ignorant comments, like some in this thread, that keep people from making the moral, sensible and educated choice to get vaccinated.

  12. Listen to anything dr. Richard Malone has to say on all this… this woman is right. I feel for her. You people are ignorant sheep. I hope she files suit against the town for violating her rights.

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