Barnstable County Employees Could Face Vaccine Mandate

COVID-19 illustration by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

HYANNIS – Barnstable County Commissioners recently reasserted a desire to see a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for county employees, especially as the holiday travel season approaches.

Assistant County Administrator Vaira Harik told commissioners that the latest COVID-19 figures showed elevated levels in the county, with 30 to 40 new cases per day and a 14-day rolling average of 38 cases per day. 

Statewide numbers show that a third or more are breakthrough vaccination cases.

“So we’re not out of the woods by any means, though the vaccination rate is holding our hospitalization rates down,” said Harik.

She added that hospitalizations remain in the teens, and that the county is not experiencing any surges or outbreaks. 

Director of the County Department of Health and Environment Sean O’Brien said that continuing cases can be attributed to the exceptional transmissibility of the Delta variant of COVID-19.

O’Brien said that testing has picked up again recently in response to the variant, especially in schools, and highlighted the testing services available at the Barnstable County Fairgrounds as well as at the Eastham Police Station. 

He added that clinic testing can also be set up if requested by a town’s health agent.

Commissioner Ronald Bergstrom said that in the face of continued Delta variant cases and with other state and federal agencies implementing a vaccination mandate, it was appropriate for Barnstable County to consider one as well. 

Commissioner Sheila Lyons echoed the need for some kind of mandate, stating that children below the age of 12 still cannot receive a shot and remain vulnerable. 

“Let’s get this done. Not only are [those unvaccinated] threatening their colleagues, they’re threatening children who do not have access and that is where we’re seeing these upticks. If that doesn’t move you, then okay. Stay home,” said Lyons.

Lyons said that it comes down to generating a draft policy to work off of, either utilizing information from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) once official guidance can be reviewed or the county creating their own.

Bergstrom said that he wanted to see a policy made sooner rather than later.

“I would like to see people vaccinated before they go home for Christmas and so on and they interact with other people. Because even though Massachusetts has a high vaccination rate, if they travel somewhere that doesn’t, it can be an issue,” said Bergstrom. 

County Administrator Beth Albert said that the county is considering policies, but a draft was not ready at the time of the meeting. 

She said that as there are exemptions to consider alongside logistical and administrative issues—especially as related to safekeeping sensitive employee information—so drafting the policy may take time. 

Commissioners are hoping to have a draft policy by early November for a potential implementation later that same month.

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native currently living in Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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