Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Proposal Requires Vaccinations for City Employees

More than 6,000 city workers would need to get vaccinated or face weekly testing.

By - Aug 2nd, 2021 12:22 pm
Milwaukee City Hall. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee City Hall. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A resolution pending before the Common Council would require City of Milwaukee employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 or undergo regular COVID-19 testing.

“All City employees deserve to work in an environment where the risk of infection by COVID-19 has been minimized, and this legislation will help us create that safer workplace,” said sponsor Alderman Robert Bauman in a press release announcing the proposal’s introduction.

The proposal comes as the fast-spreading Delta variant is resulting in a surge in COVID-19 cases in Milwaukee and other cities. The rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents has gone from a low of 9.8 to 25.9 on July 15 to  50.7 on July 22 and 95.4 on July 29. A number of 50 or higher is considered “substantial” and 100 or higher is considered “high.”

Bauman’s proposal would require vaccinations or weekly testing. Should any employees elect for weekly testing, they would also be required to wear a face mask at all times. No incentive is included with the policy, nor would the policy apply to contractors working at city facilities.

As of June, the city has a total of 6,239 active employees.

The Department of Employee Relations would be tasked with creating the official policy, including how vaccinations are verified. Employees not wishing to comply with the vaccination or testing requirement will not be permitted to work and could be subject to disciplinary action. The city’s human resources department would be given one month to implement the policy upon council adoption.

But unless the council calls a special meeting, it will be September before such a requirement can be adopted. The council is currently on its regularly scheduled August recess.

Bauman is likely to easily find six votes in support of his proposal. Council members Marina DimitrijevicCavalier JohnsonNik KovacNikiya DoddJoCasta Zamarripa and Jose G. Perez sent a letter to Mayor Tom Barrett and Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson last week calling for a policy similar to Bauman’s be enacted. They also called for a proposal to restore the city’s indoor mask mandate if case counts continue to climb.

Adoption of the policy would require at least eight votes.

The percentage of city residents receiving at least one vaccination dose is 42.8%, but the city is far from evenly vaccinated. Many of the areas with the lowest vaccination rates are those where the Black population is the highest. The vaccination rate also correlates strongly with neighborhood poverty rates, with lower-income areas less likely to have a high percentage of vaccinated residents.

Residents of the 53203 ZIP Code, which encompasses the Westown neighborhood, have a best-in-the-city vaccination rate of 69.1%, while residents of the 53206 ZIP Code have a city-worst vaccination rate of 29.6% according to state data.

The gap grows when looking at census tracts, with the Cambridge Woods neighborhood achieving a vaccination rate of 98.9% while a tract along N. 60th St. just north of W. Silver Spring Dr., is at 21.3%.

A city vaccination policy would emulate one being instituted or considered by a variety of employers, including Walmart, Walt Disney Company and EPIC Systems, the largest private employer in Dane County.

Categories: City Hall, Health, Weekly

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