Here's some more info on DC government's new vaccine mandate.
Today, the Mayor announced a big change and an important step in protecting the health of DC residents from COVID-19 and the threat from the delta variant. The District has rapidly moved into substantial community spread, positive cases are surging, and we need to urgently take action. Beginning Sept 19, all DC government employees (and paid contractors and grantees of the District) must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or will be required to undergo weekly testing. This is a move I’ve called for before and fully support.
So what does this mean? Let’s start with our schools. We are less than three weeks away from the first day of the new school year for most students. And while we need to get every student age 12 and up vaccinated, there is no vaccine available yet for kids under the age of 12. That makes it all the more important for every adult in those kids’ lives to be vaccinated. And in the event someone isn’t vaccinated, we need to assure these students and families that those individuals are regularly tested to prevent and reduce the chance of infection. The news today will apply to DC Public Schools.
If you’re a parent or student at a charter school, the Mayor’s authority to require this change doesn’t extend to that workforce. However, I certainly hope that we will see charter schools follow this lead and I would encourage each one to take this step as soon as possible. For parents in early childcare settings, many childcare facilities are DC government contractors and this will apply to many of those sites, but I would recommend you contact your childcare provider to ask about their specific requirements in response to this announcement.
I'll add here that in our schools and childcare settings, I also want to see the District ensure periodic asymptomatic testing and clear communication protocols in place when a staff member or student tests positive.
While schools are on a lot of people’s minds, this new requirement will extend further to all DC government workers. When you think about many ways you interact with your government – a responding firefighter or paramedic, a visit to the DMV for a car inspection, an application for assistance with DHS -- you are interacting with front-line workers where you may not have a choice about a remote and online visit. It’s therefore incumbent on government to create the safest possible interaction for you.
To all our government employees, union leadership, public and private partners, I’m grateful to you for stepping up to meet this challenge. This is a necessary step and one we need to take together.
It is my hope that this mandate will create the momentum for more and more of our private businesses to follow suit (already several bars and restaurants have instituted a requirement). The vaccines have proven effective against the delta variant - while vaccinated individuals can get COVID-19, the vaccine is remarkably effective at protecting you against the most serious health impacts in most cases. That's why, in areas with high vaccination rates, you can see cases go up, but you likely aren't seeing a corresponding rise in hospitalizations and deaths, thankfully. For the moment, that includes DC.
Whether you are mandated or not, we all have a part to play:
- If you haven’t already, get vaccinated. Make a plan today. Seriously. Here’s how: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/page/get-vaccinated
- Whether you’re vaccinated or not, wear a mask when you go indoors. It’s not just about protecting yourself, it’s about protecting others and those you love.
- Not sure if you’ve been exposed or showing some symptoms? Take a test. There are many ways to get a free test: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/testing
- Keep a photo of your vaccination card handy as we can expect more and more places to ask for proof as federal and local regulations update.
I know that no one is excited about taking these steps. It’s been a long year and a half. But these are the necessary and right moves to make. We have lost loved ones, seen communities devastated, watched local businesses shutter, and more. We owe it to all of them, and we owe it to each other, to take these steps.
Thanks so much and let me know if you have any questions.
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