On Tuesday, the Antioch City Council voted to adopt a resolution for mandatory testing and vaccine for COVID-19.
The move comes after the council directed staff at the August 24 meeting to come back with a resolution requiring vaccination or weekly testing for employees, contractors and volunteers with costs covered by the city, provide time to take the tests and would include a start date of October 1, 2021.
Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock requested and confirmed employees would get paid time off to take the tests.
“I am having a hard time with it because I believe in peoples rights, but I believe it on both sides so it’s a tough one for me. A lot of people I’ve heard have medical reasons and they cannot get the shot, its not that they don’t want it, they just can’t get it. Also religious beliefs, there are a lot of people who have religious beliefs that just don’t allow this to happen, but since we are giving them the time off paid and if they need help getting the test, I guess we are doing both sides,” said Ogorchock.
Staff confirmed they would have religious belief exemptions are included along with the medical exemptions.
Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson made the motion to move forward with the policy—with an amendment at the request of Ogorchock to include religious and medical exemptions.
Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker said there was no timeline included in the policy noting it begins on October 1 but there is no end date.
“Is the goal to test until infinite? Was there the idea that it would come back later and be rescinded? I am trying to figure out what the goal is here,” said Walker.
City Manager Ron Bernal said the timeline would be established based on the current status of what is happening around the county and state—it could go through Dec. 31, 2021 and possibly be extended.
“This policy is mimicking the county where they are requiring first responders be vaccinated or to be tested on a weekly basis and that is basically what this policy is doing,” said Bernal who added the county policy also doesn’t have an end date established.
Staff confirmed that this was not a mandate as employees have an option to get the vaccine, seek an exemption or get weekly testing.
Councilman Mike Barbanica opposed the policy.
“I am for vaccines and I wish everyone would get vaccinated but in essence we are making it so uncomfortable for our own employees that they have to jump through so many hoops they have to coherence people into doing this. I wish everybody would go get vaccinated but I don’t believe its our place to make life so difficult for employees that we are creating a situation where they just throw up their hands and say forget it, I’ll do it, because that ultimately from the outside looking in, from the employees perspective, what some are thinking.”
Barbanica said he has not spoken to any employees but had been contacted by an employee who works for the city and that employee told them not to do this because it was their own personal medical decision.
“The end result is lets create so much difficultly for you that you are just going to throw your hand sup and go get the vaccine, give up and go get a vaccine, that I disagree with,” said Barbanica.
The council then voted 3-1 to adopt the resolution with Barbanica dissenting and Torres-Walker abstaining. Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe, May Pro Tem Wilson and Ogorhcock supported the policy.