Mon County Commission considers vaccine mandate

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Monongalia County Commission appears to be heading towards a vaccine mandate for it’s employees.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that has seen a steady rise in cases heading into the fall, members of Monongalia County Commission say they are considering a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees. Discussions between Commission and local health officials at the Monongalia County Health Department, WVU Medicine and Mon Health, have helped guide the talks of a potential policy that is becoming more of a reality with the FDA Approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

“They lifted the emergency use authorization on Monday, right on time when Mon Health and WVU Hospitals issued their policies,” Sikora explained on WAJR’s Talk of the Town Thursday. “I think it’s time that we have that conversation with our county officials as far as where do we go going forward,” he said.

The potential vaccine mandates for Monongalia County Commission employees, will be one of several public and private entities that have been enacted over the past several months. WVU Medicine and Mon Health employees, have been required to get vaccinated by October 31 while discussions over government employee vaccinations have spread to the state level. Given the opportunity to make a decision without state approval, Sikora states that Monongalia County Commission will continue consulting health officials to implement the potential policy.

“Why reinvent the wheel,” said Sikora regarding the design of the vaccine mandate. “Their policy has been very thorough, it’s probably a lot stricter where we would go, but again we’re just starting this conversation in comparison to what we’ve already drafted,” he said.

For those who are unable to take vaccines due to a medical condition or religious exemption, Sikora stated that a policy will be in place so that they will be able to continue to work without limitations. No exact number of Monongalia County Commission employees with potential exemptions were confirmed but those who do must bring medical clearance from their doctor or show a government religious exemption form to their supervisor in order to return to their workplace. These exemptions are also being seen at medical entities such as WVU Medicine and Mon Health.

“We have exemptions because we just don’t want to have a one size fits all policy that doesn’t take into consideration some of our individual and very specialized circumstances of our employees,” he said regarding the need for exemptions depending on a case by case basis.

Anyone else who has chosen not to take the COVID-19 vaccine, will lose several benefits as a result of being at risk of COVID-19 exposure. This will include losing paid sick leave as a result of contracting COVID and an added requirement of supervisor approval to work from home. Those who haven’t been vaccinated and are employees wishing to do so, are being given opportunities to take the vaccine with designated paid time off ahead of the eventual implementation of an expanded vaccination policy.

“If you’re unvaccinated we’re not going to give you administrative leave if you’re exposed,” he said. “You’re either going to have to work at home, with the approval of a supervisor, or you’re going to have to use your leave,” he said.

Commissioners plan to conduct a thorough review and seek input from other agencies before the proposal would become policy.

“We include our component agencies- MECCA 911, Monongalia County Health Department, the Mon County Board of Education and the city of Morgantown,” Sikora,” To get a well rounded opinion of what we should do.”