The state of Delaware is not asking employees to provide proof of vaccination or of weekly testing as a result of its new policy — which takes effect Friday — that requires worker to have one or the other.
Instead, those executive branch employees must certify or “attest” to the fact that they are vaccinated or have proof of testing by filling out a state form.
Once the policy is implemented, the state Department of Human Resources will do weekly random spot checks in which a worker will be asked to provide a vaccine card or proof of testing, the policy says.
Those who can’t provide the proof within 48 hours may be subject to penalties such as leave without pay and other discipline up to and including termination, the policy said.
The state won’t know how many employees are vaccinated and how many are not until after after all forms are submitted, said Karen M. Smith, communications director for Department of Human Resources said.
How the state handles its vaccination-or-testing policy popped into public view Tuesday when Gov. John Carney and the Delaware Department of Education announced Tuesday that starting Nov. 1, all school workers must be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing.
Asked how that new rule would be enforced, Carney and Secretary of Education Susan Bunting said discipline procedures would be left to local school districts. Carney said he expected policies to be similar to the state’s, which had escalating penalties designed to give an employee time to participate before that person’s job is terminated.
“I don’t know the details of it,” Carney said. “I just know that it doesn’t result in somebody losing (their job) or getting fired right away.”
The state policy doesn’t say why it’s not requiring an employee to file their vaccination card or proof of testing.
“We’re trying to protect confidential medical information,” Smith said. “Therefore we’re limiting the amount of documents required.”
Vaccination is a hot-button issue for those in favor and opposed to requiring it.
Being vaccinated dramatically reduces a person’s chances of being infected and, if infected, hospitalization and death, health officials say. They point to the Delta variant ravaging the unvaccinated as proof that Delaware residents need it for themselves and to help protect children and others who can’t be vaccinated for have underlying conditions.
Those opposed want to control the decision of whether to be vaccinated, say they are not worried about the virus, but are worried about side effects and lack of vaccine testing.
The issue and anxiety over it has been building during the summer.
ChristianaCare, St. Francis and Nemours health systems said in late July that they would require employees to be vaccinated and that those who were not would lose their jobs. ChristianaCare said this week that 150 employees had left, many of them part-time workers.
Fewer than 12 full-time nurses left, according to a statement by CEO Janice Nevin. She did not say how many were doctors. She did say the hospital had hired 200 caregivers, with 160 of those providing direct patient care.
In August, Carney required all executive branch employees to be vaccinated by Sept. 30 or get tested weekly.
In early September, President Joe Biden blamed the unvaccinated for more COVID-19 illness and deaths and ordered all U.S. businesses to require workers to be vaccinated or tested weekly.
On Tuesday, Carney announced the school vaccination or testing requirement. He said in a Tuesday press release that he didn’t announce it as the same time as the state employee order partly because other orders, such as a mask mandate for teachers and students, had sparked a lot of reaction.
“We felt like we had to work to cultivate the ground among educators, to see what the districts themselves were willing to do,” he said.
The Delaware State Education Association, a union of teachers and educators, said Tuesday it supported vaccination, but knew some members were opposed to it, so was happy to have a testing option.
Both vaccinations and new COVID-19 cases seem to be leveling off in Delaware, said Dr. Karyl Ratty, director of the Division of Public Health, in the press conference about teacher and educator vaccinations.
As of Tuesday, 60% of the total population has had at least one COVID-19 shot, 78.2% of those eligible to be vaccinated have had at least one shot and 97.2% of those 65 and older had at least one vaccine shot.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience.
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