Milwaukee alderman introduces legislation that would require city employees to be fully vaccinated or face weekly testing

NOW: Milwaukee alderman introduces legislation that would require city employees to be fully vaccinated or face weekly testing

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Alderman Robert J. Bauman on Monday, Aug. 2, introduced Common Council legislation directing the Department of Employee Relations (DER) to develop a policy requiring all city employees to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or provide a weekly negative COVID-19 test as a condition of reporting to work.

"People will start to get the message that this isn't going to be tolerated when their refusal to take a safe and effective vaccine, readily available, free of charge, is impacting the rest of society," Bauman told CBS 58.

In a news release, Alderman Bauman, chair of the Public Works Committee, said the most recent surge in COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths has, in large part, become “a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” with rates climbing significantly within communities with low vaccination rates.

“All City employees deserve to work in an environment where the risk of infection by COVID-19 has been minimized, and this legislation will help us create that safer workplace,” Alderman Bauman said.

The policy shall require either of the following:

1. Proof of full vaccination to be provided in a manner determined by the DER.
2. Proof of a negative COVID-19 diagnostic test (not an antibody test) at least once per week, to be provided in a manner determined by the DER. Such employees shall also be required to wear face coverings at all times while in the workplace.

"As the delta variant rises and hospitals become overwhelmed in other communities across the United States, it's important that each (of) us uses the most effective tool against the virus and that is vaccination. If not, then at the very least we should do our part to make sure that we are not unknowingly spreading this new, more dangerous version of COVID-19 in our community," Common Council President Cavalier Johnson told CBS 58.

Any employees unwilling to comply with the policy will not be permitted to report to work and may be subject to disciplinary action. The Department of Employee Relations will begin implementation of the new proof-of-vaccination and mandatory testing policy within one month of adoption of the resolution.

File #21062 notes that as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sicken and take the lives of Americans, public health and safety is the responsibility of everyone. The Delta variant of COVID-19 now makes up the majority of new COVID-19 cases in the United States and is 50% more contagious than the Alpha variant, which is itself 50% more contagious than the original virus. The resolution adds that vaccinations against COVID-19 are safe and highly effective and widespread vaccination is the only solution to stopping the ongoing pandemic.

Half of Wisconsin remains unvaccinated, a haunting statistic to Bauman. 

"We are going back down the rathole," Bauman said. "Mask mandates, social distancing, I suspect capacity limits are not far away. Possible lockdowns are not far away."

COVID-19 is spreading quickly, with the more contagious delta variant making up for at least 80 percent of new cases.

"Ultimately, I think our biggest line of defense is still the vaccine," UW Health Medical Director of Infectious Disease Dr. Nasia Safdar said. "The goal is you want to get as many people protected as possible and whatever ways one has to approach that should all be on the table."

To the people who believe the requirement is an infringement on their freedom, Bauman would tell them we're long past that.

"The reluctance of a few is not going to impact the wellbeing of the many," Bauman said.

The proposal wouldn't be reviewed until September. Bauman said the mayor's office has the authority to make a mandate effective immediately.

"The mayor could pick up the phone, call his head of human resources and say get a policy in place today," Bauman said.

Mayor Tom Barrett's office tells CBS 58 he favors vaccination and masking requirements for employees. His spokesperson said the city is finalizing a plan in the coming days.

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