On Tuesday, the Antioch City Council provided direction to city staff to work on policy for staff to get vaccinated.
The policy will include employees, contractors and volunteers and will include a start date and end date while mimicking the policy by the City of Walnut Creek. The item came before the council after Mayor Lamar Thorpe held a press conference last week proposing staff be vaccinated
As of Tuesday, Contra Costa Health Services showed that the City of Antioch has had a total of 12,472 total cases with 107 deaths. In the past 14-days, they are at 828 cases. Currently, the vaccination rate in Antioch is 67.3%.
Countywide, 227 are currently in the hospital with 49 in ICU.
Mayor Thorpe thought this was an important item to bring forward for staff to work on a policy.
Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson called this “important” given the COVID-19, especially in the City of Antioch and East Contra Costa County.
“I think this is very important. Please get tested and its important that we do not only get tested, but get the vaccination,” said Wilson who noted the FDA just approved the Pfizer vaccination. “We want to keep the community safe and a lot of people want to go outdoors and not wear the masks but to get to that we need to get everyone vaccinated and get those numbers down and everybody needs to be safe. I definitely support this.”
Councilmember Mike Barbanica said he appreciated the Mayor bringing this forward but was torn on it.
“I am apprehensive as an elected person to tell the staff what they have to put in their body but I get it. I want people to get vaccinated, I am vaccinated, my family is vaccinated. I want the vaccinations, I would just rather see we approach this from the standpoint of bringing a mobile clinic and allowing staff to come in and get vaccinated by choice,” explained Barbanica. “At some point, where does it stop. We find ourselves where its going to be so uncomfortable for those people that don’t want to do it don’t feel like being tested every week or they are the outcast in the office, that is what I am more concerned with.”
“I think it’s a personal choice. I support vaccinated. I hope everybody does that. I just don’t feel that we should eb pushing the mandate on employees,” said Barbanica.
Councilmember Lori Ogorchock said she was vaccinated but understood religious beliefs, medical issues and respected the choice not to have them.
“Do I want everyone vaccinated? Of course I do. Do I want to get back to a normal life, whatever that looks like, absolutely,” stated Ogorochock. “You said it correctly, I think its in the city managers hands because staff is under him and I know we set policy but if this council does this I would look to having a policy where staff, if they choose not to, to make sure they come in with a weekly test and paid for their time to do it, if there is a cost we pick it up.”
Thorpe said he appreciated that because that was what he was proposing.
“You either get tested or you are vaccinated,” said Thorpe.
Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker said she believed this was a personal choice.
“I don’t believe that you should announce you are vaccinated to believe that you believe in vaccinations. It is ridiculous,” said Walker. “People are going to choose what is best for their own personal health whether its get vaccinated or tested or not.”
She also called it a “city employee issue” and make sure those engaged in the public have an option to get vaccinated which they already have.
“I don’t see us doing anything extravagant or out of the ordinary,” stated Walker while agreeing with Ogorchock to ensure employees are compensated.
“There is no way to tell if making this move with city staff is going to convince anyone in the community that they should get vaccinated,” said Walker. “We can do whatever we think is best for the city to protect staff and protect people engaging with the community, but I think what we are really dealing with is a historical reference with a history of medical malpractice in these communities that people remember and reminded of and people are afraid of. Its not just the vaccination, some people wont even go to the dentist.”
She called it a choice people already have.
“I don’t want to get people thinking that if we all sit up here and declare we are vaccinated that people are just going to jump on the bandwagon and go get vaccinated, because that is most often not the case,” said Walker.
Mayor Thorpe sought to provide direction to staff.
“I took it for granted. Supervisor Diane Burgis had been hounding me about getting vaccinated and getting vaccinated out. I was certainly one of those people who did not want to get vaccinated but she reminded me that they were not seeing the numbers of partially ethnic minorities coming in and getting vaccinated. So she asked me to get publicly vaccinated.”
Thorpe highlighted they did see a small surge in vaccination that I got vaccinated at Prewett Ranch who came in after the fact.
“I slightly disagree that symbolic nature of doing something like that doesn’t have some level of impact on people who may be concerned or afraid and seeing their elected leaders take that type of action. I think its important for us to do so,” said Thorpe who added there were misgivings they will never be able to work through or mistrust of government. “We certainly can try.”
The council provided direction to staff which included a start and end date which was approved in a 4-1 “thumbs up” vote to move forward.
Its unclear when the policy will be brought back to the council or begin.