FRESNO, California. (KGPE) – The City of Fresno announced Wednesday that city employees must get the COVID-19 vaccine or get tested regularly.
The new policy will start in September and according to the city manager, anyone who violates it could face a maximum consequence of termination.
While Mayor Jerry Dyer and Fresno City Council President Luis Chavez say this is the right move for employee’s health, others are worried the policy goes too far.
“COVID is not a hoax. It is real. People have lost their lives and we should all take steps to make sure that we are all safe and we have an effective tool to do that, and it’s called the vaccine,” said Mayor Dyer.
As COVID-19 cases spike in Fresno due to the delta variant, Mayor Dyer and other top officials laid out the new policy, which requires city employees to show proof of vaccination or get tested weekly for COVID-19.
“We lost two police officers this last year, Paul Brown and Angel De La Fuente, to COVID. Never in my life did we succumb to COVID, so we all have to remind ourselves for the reason as to why we are doing this,” Mayor Dyer said.
On July 11, the health department says there were around 40 COVID-19 hospitalizations in Fresno County, that number now over 160.
Around 36% of the city’s 4,100 employees have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Fresno City Employees Association represents around 700 of those employees.
President Sam Frank says the union is okay with the new policy but is concerned if the city issues a vaccine mandate later down the line.
“It could blow up in our face we could end up with people quitting, retiring early because we are only here to provide service and if do something and overreach on it. It could be counterproductive,” explained Frank.
Councilmember Garry Bredefeld has taken a stance against the new policy, saying it essentially forces employees to be vaccinated.
“It’s harassing them. It is threatening them with their job, and it is forcing them to get a vaccine that perhaps they don’t want, and I believe in personal freedom, and I believe that this is America, even though people are trying to change it,” Bredefeld said.
Officials say they could consider a vaccine mandate if hospitalizations worsen.
The vaccine is currently administered under emergency use authorization but could be approved in the next couple of weeks.