More than 200 City of Boston workers were placed on unpaid leave Tuesday for their noncompliance with COVID-19 requirements, meaning they failed to either verify their vaccination status or show proof of a weekly, negative test for the virus.
The total number of city workers on unpaid leave for violating the policy remains north of 800. Acting Mayor Kim Janey announced a vaccine mandate for the city workforce, which includes more than 18,000 employees, in August. At the time, she emphasized that vaccinations were key to the city’s battle against the pandemic. The new requirement took effect in phases, with different groups of workers having to comply by different dates.
As of Tuesday, 642 “Phase 1″ employees were out of compliance. That cohort consists of workers who provide services to high priority residents, including but not limited to the Boston Public Schools, the Boston Centers for Youth & Families, Boston Public Libraries, Age Strong, and the Commission on Disabilities. Enforcement for workers in that group who are in violation of the city’s pandemic rules started Oct. 12.
“Phase 2″ employees include all onsite contractors and volunteers who provide services to high priority residents and all workers who provide public-facing services to city residents, including parks, inspections, and the parking clerk’s office. This group also includes police, firefighters, and EMTs.
Janey’s administration said on Tuesday it did not have a department-by-department breakdown of who was placed on unpaid leave, but did say that 206 “Phase 2″ employees were not in compliance and that enforcement of the policy for this group started on Tuesday.
“The number of people out of compliance fluctuates as some people get in compliance and others are newly out of compliance,” said a Janey spokeswoman in an e-mail.
Indeed, despite the addition of 200-plus workers being notified that they were violating the city’s pandemic protocols on Tuesday, the total number of those workers on unpaid leave was almost the same as it was two weeks prior, when 812 employees from five agencies were on unpaid leave.
About 17,800 city workers are in compliance with the city’s COVID-19 mandate, meaning they are either vaccinated or are being regularly tested, according to Janey’s office.
Vaccine mandates have become increasingly commonplace in both the public and private sectors, and Janey is not the only politician to issue such a requirement. Governor Charlie Baker, for instance, on Tuesday defended his decision to require that state workers under him, including State Police, be vaccinated, and lamented not having a “magic combination” to convince holdouts to get inoculated.
Also on Tuesday, Massachusetts education leaders extended the universal mask mandate for most public schools through Jan. 15, 2022. Meanwhile, a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Tuesday endorsed child-size doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, which moved the nation closer to starting vaccinations in children ages 5 to 11. Next week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will have to decide whether to recommend the shots and which youngsters should get them.
Last month, President Biden toughened COVID-19 vaccine requirements for federal workers and contractors as he aims to boost vaccinations and curb the Delta variant. He also announced sweeping orders that require employers with more than 100 workers to mandate immunizations or offer weekly testing.
According to city data, 65 percent of Boston residents were fully vaccinated as of Tuesday. The city’s COVID caseload has topped 82,000 during this pandemic, including 1,450 deaths.
Massachusetts on Tuesday reported 1,115 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 23 new confirmed coronavirus deaths. The state also reported 24,102 vaccinations, including booster shots, had been administered, the Department of Public Health said.
The state also reported that 546 patients with COVID-19 were in hospitals, and Massachusetts public health authorities reported 3,078 more COVID-19 cases among fully vaccinated people since last week, bringing the total since the beginning of the vaccination campaign to 51,007 cases, or 1.08 percent of all fully vaccinated people.
Matt Stout and Amanda Kaufman of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press was also used.