Starting next week, all employees who work in the office of Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner will have to provide either proof of COVID-19 vaccination, or proof of a negative test every week, to continue working in his office.
The measure follows what President Joe Biden has mandated for federal employees, as well as what other states are doing.
“We must listen to the experts and act quickly to protect Rhode Islanders from Covid-19 as the Delta variant continues to spread throughout the state,” Magaziner said in an e-mailed statement. “We need real leadership now to prevent further spread. I call on my colleagues in government to join me in implementing these safe and simple guidelines.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Dan McKee’s administration announced Thursday that all employees and visitors at a state facility, regardless of vaccination status, will have to wear a face covering starting Friday unless they have a health condition that prevents them from wearing one.
The moves on Thursday come after upticks in COVID-19 in Rhode Island caused by the Delta variant of the virus. Hospitalizations have crept up in Rhode Island in recent days. Experts say the vaccines are working to keep hospitalizations and deaths down, but rare breakthrough cases do end up in the hospital.
Magaziner’s staff, 89 in all, operate independently of McKee’s administration. Magaziner, a Democrat who oversees Rhode Island’s cash as the state’s treasurer, said the move was necessary for public health reasons.
There are also political undertones: McKee, whom Magaziner is expected to challenge in the Democratic primary next year, has resisted mandating that the broader state workforce be vaccinated, saying recently he was a “five” on a scale of 1 to 10 about the idea.
But his administration announced this week that health care workers at state-licensed facilities would need to be vaccinated or face twice-weekly testing. Those health care facilities include public employees.
Brian Amaral can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bamaral44.