Alachua County Manager Michele Lieberman said on Tuesday that she plans to reward county employees who choose to get the COVID-19 vaccine with a $100 reward.
“It is a significant consideration,” Lieberman told the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) at Tuesday’s special meeting.
Lieberman said the bonuses for the county’s roughly 1,000 employees would come from American Rescue Plan funds. She did not need BOCC approval of the new Alachua County masking plan that goes into effect on Wednesday because creating employee policy is within her management scope.
The new policy is similar to the staff policy Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon announced on Monday.
According to the plan, all staff and visitors are required to wear a face mask when indoors in “all County buildings whether vaccinated or unvaccinated.”
The plan does not require employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine but states that it is “strongly encouraged.”
“All fully vaccinated employees shall provide proof of vaccination by August 31, 2021, or as soon thereafter as fully vaccinated,” the plan states. “Until fully vaccinated and proof is provided, the unvaccinated policies will apply.”
The plan requires that employees who are fully vaccinated wear face masks “indoors in meetings, with the public and in all public areas,” but a mask is not required for employees working alone in their offices.
Employees who are not fully vaccinated are “required to wear a mask at all times unless eating/drinking/sleeping, including outdoors (no exception) and driving; and social distance when interacting with other employees or members of the public.”
Unvaccinated employees will be tested for COVID-19 weekly, at the county’s expense, and will not be authorized to travel for elective activities such as conferences or training at the county’s expense.
The county is discouraging in-person staff meetings and promoting the use of virtual meetings via Zoom and also states there should be no “employee gatherings for non-business purposes (during work hours) until further notice.”
Any vaccinated employee who tests positive for COVID-19 “will receive one week of Covid 19 leave to quarantine,” the plan states.
And employees who are not vaccinated will need to use their own sick, vacation or accrued leave or take unpaid time off while they are under quarantine.
And the same holds true of worker’s compensation coverage, which will be afforded to vaccinated employees who can show exposure from work and a subsequent positive test, but will not be afforded unvaccinated employees even if they can show exposure from work and then test positive.
The plan does have accommodations for “employees who have an ADA-covered disability, a doctor certified diagnosed medical condition which prevents an employee from receiving a vaccination or ‘a sincerely held religious belief’ on a case-by-case basis.”
“[The plan] allows employees to have the choice, but along with that choice we still need to protect our employees as a whole and the public,” Lieberman said.
The new policy comes as the delta variant has sent COVID-19 patients pouring into local hospitals and left county rescue teams scrambling to get sick people the coverage they need.