SAN DIEGO (CNS) — More than 90% of San Diego city employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, allowing the city to accommodate some religious or medical exemptions to its mandatory vaccination policy, it was announced Monday.
Around 790 employees will receive notices starting this week that their requests for reasonable accommodation were approved, city officials said. City departments will accommodate the employees by providing free weekly COVID- 19 testing at the workplace.
Employees who refuse to comply with the weekly testing regimen will be subject to termination.
"Before we instituted the vaccine mandate, just 69% of city employees were vaccinated, and I'm incredibly proud the vaccination rate is now over 90%," Mayor Todd Gloria said in a statement. "It's unquestionably to the public's benefit for city employees to stay healthy and on the job, safely serving residents, and I am committed to maintaining policies that protect San Diegans. I'm grateful to our employees for joining me in this effort."
Last year, the city council mandated that all employees become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 1, 2021, as a condition of employment. Employees who refused to get vaccinated were provided the option to apply for a medical or religious exemption. The requests were reviewed on a case-by-case basis, as required by law.
According to city data, lost work time due to sick days from COVID-19 totaled more than $3.64 million from Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021. When the council passed the mandate, nearly 1,300 city employees had been infected with COVID-19 across all departments.
As an example he gave in November, Gloria said COVID-19 infections resulted in delays in trash collection on 45 trash routes, 1,030 recycling routes and 45 greenery routes since July 2020. Those delayed routes impacted more than 1.3 million city residents, some on multiple occasions.
Additionally, as a result of rising positive tests, the San Diego Police Department had to suspend its police academy operations on two occasions.
The San Diego Fire Department has also had to temporarily close two fire academies and make changes in operational protocols when more than 30 personnel were in isolation at one time due to positive COVID-19 tests.
The city is still considering exemptions for around 200 employees who submitted requests.