EAST GREENWICH – Town manager Andrew Nota on Monday laid out East Greenwich’s policy for unvaccinated municipal employees, noting a local Oct. 15 deadline for town workers to report vaccination status. While the policy is not a mandate, unvaccinated employees will be classified as such by the town and must adhere to a list of requirements during their employment. 

“My explanation and I’m happy to stand behind it is that in our industry and our profession and the services that we provide are a different category than the private sector and even some public sectors of government,” said Nota. “I strongly believe we are the last line of response for our community members.” 

In Nota’s memo to town council members ahead of Monday’s meeting, under a heading reading “Town Workforce Vaccination Policy Generally,” the town manager notes there are about six municipal employees that have not received at least one dose of vaccine. Under the policy, vaccinated workers can provide proof of vaccinated status in the form of a vaccination card or by providing a hard or electronic copy of vaccination record and submitting it to the town or showing it to East Greenwich Personnel Office by Oct. 15. 

“When an employee discloses that they are not fully vaccinated or declines to provide proof of vaccination, the town shall treat that individual as not fully vaccinated for purposes of implementing safety measures, including with respect to mask wearing, physical distancing, testing, and quarantine protocols,” the memo reads. 

Under the policy, employees who are not vaccinated or have received a vaccine waiver for any reason will be required to wear a procedure mask or higher-grade mask (KN95 or N95) in the course of their employment, be tested for COVID-19 twice per week by methods authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration, such as a rapid and PCR test. 

“Employees should not be tested on consecutive days (i.e. Monday and Tuesday of the same week) and they should report to work after being tested,” the policy states. “If the test result is positive, the individual must leave the work environment immediately and follow the procedures of the [US Centers for Disease Control (CDC)], for either quarantine or isolation. All employees that test positive can utilize the appropriate category of leave benefits in complying with all Rhode Island Department of Health and CDC requirements in recovery.” 

Employees falling into this category would not be required to wear a mask while working outdoors unless in a crowded setting with sustained close contact with other people who are not fully vaccinated, according to the policy. The town also noted that “all information” collected from individuals, including vaccination information and test results, will be treated in accordance with applicable laws and policies on confidentiality and privacy, and will be accessible only to those with a “need to know.” 

Mask wearing in public spaces, such as town buildings like town hall, will continue to be optional, said Nota, while unvaccinated members of the public and town employees who are unvaccinated will be required to wear a mask in all public buildings or “public outdoor spaces.” The Town of East Greenwich will continue to monitor the local transmission rate when deciding policy around mask wearing. 

 Finally, masks will be required of all parties at public meetings “until the time that both East Greenwich as a community and Rhode Island as a small, very densely populated State see a stabilization in transmission rates,” Nota said. 

The town will make an effort to have masks available at all such meetings to support members of the public and municipal staff.  

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In 1954, when I was a kid, polio started to make its way down Ruth Avenue in East Providence, the street on which I lived as a five year-old with my parents. One neighbor, who lived seven or so houses down, contracted it and became a quadriplegic in an iron lung for the rest of her days.

We thought that the vaccine was a miracle, and we liked Ike. Stupid wars, dirty financial paper, and advantage-taking of every sort ruined that comity, stressed that trust ALMOST to the breaking point. Not yet.

Honor is still important, one would think. Honor and responsibility.

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