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St. Louis Mayor Jones ‘evaluating’ vaccine mandate for city workers

St. Louis Mayor Jones ‘evaluating’ vaccine mandate for city workers

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ST. LOUIS — Mayor Tishaura O. Jones said Tuesday that her administration was evaluating whether to require city workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, a move that would put St. Louis in line with a growing number of employers around the country.

“We are actively monitoring COVID-19 cases in the region, and like many other employers, are evaluating whether to mandate vaccines for city employees to protect the public and our workforce,” Jones said in a statement.

Her administration’s evaluation follows other jurisdictions announcing new requirements for public sector workers amid the surge in the delta variant.

California officials announced Monday the state would require millions of health care workers and state employees to show proof of vaccination or get tested weekly. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan requiring 340,000 city employees, including teachers and police officers, to show proof of vaccination or undergo weekly testing.

Also Tuesday, President Joe Biden said that requiring all federal workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus is “under consideration.”

Meanwhile, Jones said Tuesday that her administration was making available vaccination incentives for nearly 6,000 civil service employees.

The incentives include $100 gift cards and allowing employees to use paid time off to get their shots, according to a news release.

It was unclear what percentage of St. Louis city employees had been vaccinated as of Tuesday.

Nick Dunne, spokesman for Jones, said in an email that city agencies were gathering information on employee vaccination rates.

He said the city is also contacting the state “to work toward a more comprehensive, fuller picture of employee vaccination rates.”

A spokesman for St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said Tuesday the county was not tracking vaccination rates among employees.

“No departments are requiring staff to get vaccinated but we are reviewing the law to see how it would apply to each department,” spokesman Doug Moore added. “We also are looking at incentive programs.”

Chris Moreland, spokesman for the Missouri Office of Administration, which oversees state employees, said in late June, when asked about an outbreak at a state office building, that “employees are not required” to disclose their vaccination status.

Moreland did not immediately respond to questions Tuesday about whether the state was tracking employee vaccination rates by department, or whether it was weighing a vaccine requirement for workers.

Karen Pojmann, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Corrections, said offenders and staff were strongly encouraged but not required to get shots.

She said about 64% of the offender population so far has been vaccinated, and that only fully vaccinated offenders were being allowed in visiting rooms.

She said the agency was not tracking staff vaccination rates.

“Our staff, like everyone else, can be vaccinated anywhere at any time and state employees are not required to report their vaccination status or other preventative health measures to their employers,” Pojmann said.

Vaccine rules have been met with opposition from many Missouri Republican politicians.

In June, Missouri House lawmakers debated legislation barring employers from requiring the shot before its sponsor withdrew the proposal. The debate came as major health care providers, including Creve Coeur-based SSM Health, announced they would require workers to get the shot.

Only 47.4% of Missourians have received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared with 56.8% nationally, state and federal data shows. The rate is far lower for younger residents, with just 26.5% of 12- to 14-year-olds and 36.5% of 15- to 24-year-olds getting at least one dose.

The state rolled out a vaccine incentive program last week that includes $10,000 prizes for 900 lottery winners. About 250,000 people have registered so far, said health department spokeswoman Lisa Cox.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

In a series of conversations with Congresswoman Cori Bush and St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, Post-Dispatch columnists Aisha Sultan and Tony Messenger ask the two political leaders of the region about a variety of topics, including reparations, rebuilding north St. Louis, crime, the changing political scene in Missouri, and parenting. Video by Colter Peterson, cpeterson@post-dispatch.com

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Katie Kull covers public safety for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She previously wrote about local government for the Springfield News-Leader. In her spare time, you can find her cooking, riding horses or spending time outdoors.

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