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Gov. Phil Scott expands COVID-19 vaccine requirements to all state employees

The Burlington Free Press logo The Burlington Free Press 9/9/2021 Elizabeth Murray, Burlington Free Press
Phil Scott et al. posing for the camera: Vermont Republican Gov. Phil Scott announces on Monday June 14, 2021 in Montpelier, Vt., that the state had reached its goal of vaccinating 80% of the eligible population. As a result Scott lifted all remaining COVID-19 restrictions that were imposed to deal with the pandemic. © WILSON RING/ASSOCIATED PRESS Vermont Republican Gov. Phil Scott announces on Monday June 14, 2021 in Montpelier, Vt., that the state had reached its goal of vaccinating 80% of the eligible population. As a result Scott lifted all remaining COVID-19 restrictions that were imposed to deal with the pandemic.

All Vermont state employees will be subject to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate starting this month, Gov. Phil Scott announced. 

As of Sept. 15, all state employees will be required to attest to their vaccination status, or they will be subject to weekly testing, he said during a news conference Sept. 8.

In fiscal year 2020, the state employed more than 8,000 people, according to Vermont's Department of Human Resources.

"As I’ve said, we want as many people as possible to get the vaccine — because we know they work — and we feel it’s the best way to put this pandemic behind us," Scott said. "I continue to urge other employers to follow suit."

More than 86% of Vermonters age 12 and older have at least one dose of the vaccine as of Wednesday, data provided by the state show. 

An initial mandate, put into place in August, only required vaccination for state employees who worked at the Vermont Department of Corrections, the Veterans' Home, and the state psychiatric hospital.

COVID-19 vaccine mandate: 'This wasn't decided lightly': Vermont employer imposes COVID vaccine mandate

UVM Health Network:  COVID vaccine mandate to affect 15,000 workers

The new mandate comes amid a continued rise in positive COVID-19 cases and resulting hospitalizations and deaths due to the highly contagious delta variant. 

The Vermont State Employees' Association, the union for state workers, does not oppose the measure overall, said Steve Howard, the executive director. However, Howard said that any vaccination requirements would trigger impact bargaining between the state and union representatives. 

a hand holding a cell phone: A Vermonter displays his COVID vaccination sticker at the DoubleTree by Hilton in South Burlington on March 4, 2021. © JOEL BANNER BAIRD/FREE PRESS A Vermonter displays his COVID vaccination sticker at the DoubleTree by Hilton in South Burlington on March 4, 2021.

"I think we would acknowledge that he has a right to do it," Howard said of the governor's mandate. "I think there are a lot of state employees who agree with it, and there's a group of state employees who don't. It's sort of the same debate you see happening in society in general."

Howard urged the governor to think about requiring either proof of vaccination or masks inside state buildings to further protect state employees. He said this would ensure the work site is the safest it can be. 

Related: Vermont state troopers accused in scheme to make fake COVID vaccine cards

Contact Elizabeth Murray at 802-310-8585 or emurray@freepressmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizMurrayBFP.

This article originally appeared on Burlington Free Press: Gov. Phil Scott expands COVID-19 vaccine requirements to all state employees

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