A new proposed personnel policy would have unvaccinated Hudson County workers use their own time if they contract COVID-19, or be placed on unpaid leave if they don’t have any, as well as pay for mandatory biweekly testing out of pocket.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“Any partially or fully vaccinated employee who tests positive for COVID-19 will be able to recover on county time for up to 80 hours, but only as needed, without use of his or her time. For any time needed after 80 hours, the employee must use his/her time,” a copy of the proposal obtained by HCV says.
“Any unvaccinated employee who contracts COVID-19 must use his or her accrued time while out of work. If no time is available then the employee will have to be put on unpaid leave until recovered.”
For partially vaccinated employees, they must become fully vaccinated after using paid time off or have time deducted from their earned time leave.
As for employees who choose not to get vaccinated, they must cover all costs related to two coronavirus tests a week.
“If an employee is not vaccinated then the employee must be tested twice a week and the employee will be responsible for the costs of the tests including the filing of any claims for coverage through the medical insurer of the employee,” the proposed policy continues.
Additionally, the unvaccinated employee must provide test results to central personnel or a “designated person with the department” in order to remain at the office.
While they are allowed to take the tests administered by the county on county time, they must work with the county in filing a claim for insurance coverage and be made responsible for all associated costs.
In a phone interview, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise said the county has about 3,100 government employees and close to 900 are still unvaccinated, even after a lottery program last year where two people were awarded $7,500 ($5,000 and $2,500) for getting vaccinated.
With COVID-19 cases running rampant throughout the region, DeGise said he supports more stringent measures to keep workers safe.
“We’ve done our best to keep our workers safe, we’ve allowed work at home options, mandatory quarantines if anyone has tested positive. But now we’ve hit a wall in terms of whose willing to get vaccinated or whose not. It’s not like the Polio vaccine where the worst that can happen is you get sick,” he stated.
“If you refuse this vaccine, you’re putting others at risk. So now we’re exploring other ways to get the job done. This virus is running rampant so we’re going to talk about other methods to get as many people vaccinated as possible. I’m in favor of being more aggressive to get more people vaccinated. We can’t allow unvaccinated people to continue to put others at risk.”
DeGise added that while their personnel policy was updated on Monday, it likely will not reflect the full scope of their COVID-19 safety plan.
However, if the new county proposal were to take effect, it would be the first local mandate that includes significant financial incentives for employees to get their shots.