COVID-19 Employee Information
The City issued a vaccine requirement for all full-time and part-time benefitted City employees (1,038) last fall. We’re happy to report that the overwhelming majority complied. A total of 30 medical and religious exemptions were requested and granted, and fewer than five employees were disciplined. The rest of our full-time and part-time benefitted workforce is now fully vaccinated and better protected from the virus. For information on where to get vaccinated, visit somervillema.gov/vaccine.
All City staff must be fully vaccinated by November 1, 2021
Certain exemptions and accommodations will be allowed
To better protect the health and safety of staff and the public, Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone announced today that all City of Somerville employees must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of November 1, 2021. The City joins municipalities, states, and employers across the nation, including the U.S. military, who are taking this preventive step to help contain the spread of the virus. Employees will be allowed to apply for certain exemptions.
“COVID-19 is surging once again, and we must use every tool available to rein in the devastating impacts of this virus. Vaccination is the most effective tool we have to reduce severe and fatal illness from this disease. To protect our staff and the public we serve, and to do our part to keep the recovery going, we are requiring staff vaccination. We’ll be doing our best to make this easy for employees, and we will be working with our union representatives to develop reasonable accommodations for medical and other exceptions,” said Mayor Curtatone.
City staff includes all City of Somerville full-time, part-time, and temporary employees working for any City department or City public safety agency, excluding school staff. The Somerville Public Schools have been developing proposals for vaccination requirements in consultation with school-based unions. School vaccine requirements must be approved by the Somerville School Committee, which will take up the matter at their next meeting on Monday, August 30.
Requests for medical and religious accommodations will be considered on a case-by-case basis. City officials are seeking to develop fair and reasonable protocols for enforcement and accommodations in collaboration with employee union representatives.
Individuals are considered to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 two weeks after their final vaccine dose. Thus to be fully vaccinated by November 1, all City staff must receive the final dose of their chosen COVID-19 vaccine by October 18. For the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, full vaccination is two weeks after receiving the second dose. For the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, full vaccination is two weeks after receiving the one and only dose.
To further ease access, the City will be offering staff vaccination clinics and sharing information on other vaccination providers. Staff will be able to report their vaccination status via a secure, HIPAA-compliant online portal, and the program will be administered with full confidentiality by the City’s Department of Human Resources.
“The vaccines are proving to be highly effective in preventing serious cases of COVID-19, even with the variants,” said Somerville’s Health and Human Services Director Doug Kress. “That is why it is vital for everyone who is eligible to get the vaccine. There are still tens of thousands of people regionally and more than 100 million people nationally who do not have this protection, just as a highly contagious variant is causing a new round of outbreaks. Until we have the overwhelming majority of our population vaccinated, the potential for this virus to do serious harm will persist.”
“As a public entity, the City must fulfill its responsibility to safeguard public health. But as our staff get their vaccines, I’m urging the remaining unvaccinated members of our community to also step up to protect us all,” said Mayor Curtatone. “We need you to get vaccinated to protect children under 12, to protect the vulnerable, and to spare doctors and nurses the burden and heartbreak of more COVID cases. Do this to shield your loved ones from the worry or grief that will come if you become ill or die from this awful disease. Get vaccinated to keep the recovery moving forward. I know our community cares about each other. I see it every day in so many ways. Let’s show it by driving up our vaccination numbers too.”
Vaccination is available for free to all persons in Massachusetts age 12 and older. No insurance, no I.D., and no immigration information is required. Walk-in, no appointment options are widely available. To find out how and where to get vaccinated locally, visit somervillema.gov/vaccine or contact 311 at 617-666-3311.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who does the mandate apply to?
The vaccine mandate will apply to all City employees, regardless of number of hours worked.
For employees of the Somerville Public Schools (SPS), SPS administration and the School Committee are currently in the process of reviewing their employee vaccination policies and will update SPS staff directly.
Will there be exceptions to the mandate?
The City will accommodate staff members who are prevented from getting the vaccine for a medical reason or because of a sincerely held religious belief. Staff members who receive exemptions from the vaccine mandate must participate in alternative protocols, including regular required testing and mandatory PPE while at work, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
HR will handle exemption requests pursuant to the City’s existing reasonable accommodation policy and will keep that information confidential. The City has a form that employees can use for this purpose. Exemption forms are due to HR on October 22, 2021. Please contact Human Resources (HR) if you believe that you qualify for an exemption by emailing HR Administrator Elaine O’Sullivan at email@example.com.
Will I be fired or otherwise disciplined if I do not get the vaccine and if I do not qualify to receive an exemption?
This mandate is intended to protect the health and safety of staff and the public. Employees who have made good faith attempts to become fully vaccinated by receiving at least 1 dose of vaccine but who have not reached full vaccination status by November 1, 2021, may continue working per usual, provided that they complete the respective vaccination regimen within the proscribed dose timelines for either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.
Employees who have not begun to become fully vaccinated (meaning they have not received any shot), who have not received an exemption by November 1, 2021, or who do not complete the vaccine regimen at the specific interval for the respective vaccine brand will not be allowed to be present at work. Furthermore, employees who do not obtain an exemption, do not obtain any vaccine by November 1, 2021, or who do not complete the vaccine regimen for the specific vaccine brand will be subject to progressive disciplinary sanctions for non-compliance, up to and including termination.
The first level of discipline will be a 5-day unpaid suspension. The second level of discipline will be a 10-day unpaid suspension. If an employee commences vaccination during a suspension, they may remain on an unpaid leave and return to work once fully vaccinated. If, after the 10-day suspension, an employee has not begun the vaccination process (meaning received at least 1 dose), the City will separate the employee from employment.
Who will enforce compliance with the mandate?
Human Resources (HR) will oversee compliance with the vaccine mandate.
By what date do I need to be fully vaccinated?
Employees must receive at least 1 dose of vaccine by November 1, 2021. Employees who have only received 1 dose of a 2-dose regimen by that date may continue working per usual, provided that they complete the respective vaccination regimen within the proscribed dose timelines for either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.
When am I considered fully vaccinated?
According to the CDC, people are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after their second shot in a 2-dose series, like the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or 2 weeks after a single-shot vaccine, like Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine.
Where can I get vaccinated?
Vaccine locations can be found at somervillema.gov/vaccine or on VaxFinder. Covid-19 vaccination is free and no insurance is required.
If I have side effects from the vaccine, may I use sick leave?
Employees can take sick leave or other available statutory leave if they experience side effects following receipt of a vaccine dose that prevent them from working. This is consistent with the City’s treatment of these absences for employees who received a vaccine earlier in 2021.
How will I share my vaccine status?
This City will use a HIPAA-compliant online program that will allow employees to report their vaccine status. Persons requiring assistance with this anticipated online platform may request support from HR. In the meantime, the CDC recommends taking a picture of your vaccination card as a backup copy, so please do so as soon as possible if you haven’t already.
What if I lost my vaccine card?
There are several options available if you lost your vaccine card:
- Contact your vaccination provider, such as Walgreens, CVS, or your local Board of Health. Please note that the Somerville Board of Health will only have access to Somerville residents’ vaccine information.
- If you enrolled in v-safe when you got the vaccine, your record will be stored there. (Please note that you can only enroll in v-safe when you receive your vaccine.)
- Fill out an immunization record request form, which goes to the Department of Public Health, to receive a complete history of all of the vaccines you’ve received, not just the COVID-19 vaccine. Please note it can take up to six weeks before you get your records and that the request form must be notarized mailed.
Where will my vaccine status information be stored, and who will have access to it? How will this information be protected?
HR will safeguard vaccination information using a HIPAA-compliant system. HR staff will exclusively have access to this information, and it will only be used to manage the vaccination compliance program. This will be managed similarly to other confidential employee medical records.
Who will determine if I qualify for an exemption, and who will have access to that information?
HR will handle exemption requests pursuant to the City’s existing reasonable accommodation policy and will keep that information confidential.
Can I participate in routine testing instead of getting vaccinated?
Individuals who qualify for an exemption for medical or religious reasons must participate in reasonable alternative protocols that may include frequent testing. Details about alternative protocols will be shared at a later date with individuals who qualify for an exemption.
If I’m due for a booster and they are available, do I need to get one to be considered fully vaccinated?
Guidance regarding boosters will be shared at a later date, but if you are eligible for a booster (or a third dose for immunocompromised persons), we strongly encourage you to get your booster or third dose in order to have maximum protection against the virus. Consult with your healthcare provider for additional guidance.
Who should employees contact with additional questions?
Please email HR Administrator Elaine O’Sullivan.
Who should supervisors contact with additional questions?
Please email HR Administrator Elaine O’Sullivan.
Thank you for all you have done and will continue to do to keep our staff and community members as safe as possible in this challenging time.
City buildings reopened to the public on Monday, July 12, 2021. Current health and safety protocols designed to provide a safe working environment include:
- Employee vaccine requirement: The City’s employee vaccine requirement goes into effect on Monday, November 1, 2021. Details about the requirement and associated health and religious exemptions can be found on the "Staff Vaccination Requirement" tab of this page.
- HEPA filters: Each room is equipped with a portable HEPA filter. Please leave these filters on when you are in the office, and, weather permitting, open any windows. If there is an issue with the HEPA filter in your office, please submit a work order via 311. If you would like to request a new or additional HEPA filter, please contact Deputy Incident Commander Tim Snyder at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Masks: All City staff and all members of the public are required to wear masks while they are working indoors, unless working alone in an office. Staff are not required to wear masks outside.
- Plexiglass: Plexiglass barriers have been installed at all customer service counters.
- Remote interactions & appointments: All interactions with the public that can be done remotely should continue to be done remotely. With the exception of transactions that can be conducted at departments’ customer service windows, members of the public are required to make appointments to meet with staff.
- Building monitors: Building monitors tasked with ensuring members of the public comply with these rules are working at the following buildings: City Hall, City Hall Annex, DPW, and Central Library. Staff will handle these responsibilities at the East and West Branch Libraries, 42 Cross St., and the Edgerly.
- PPE: Departments needing personal protective equipment (PPE) – masks, sanitizing wipes, and hand sanitizer – should email Renee Mello at email@example.com to make requests and arrange for delivery. Departments should identify one individual to submit PPE requests to make the process more efficient. We have a limited stock of sanitizing wipes in our central PPE cache; once that supply is out, departments should order their own sanitizing wipes through W.B. Mason. As a reminder, because COVID is spread primarily through aerosol droplets and particles, sanitizing desks is not necessary. Wearing masks, using HEPA filters, and keeping windows open are the most effective strategies to mitigate the spread of COVID.
- In-person meeting guidance: In-person community meetings and City events should be held outdoors whenever possible. Staff and consultants representing the City must wear masks. Participants should be strongly encouraged to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. Since it can be difficult to maintain social distancing in public gatherings, this protocol reflects CDC guidance that individuals wear masks in crowded outdoor settings. Staff should contact Deputy Incident Commander Tim Snyder at firstname.lastname@example.org if they intend to hold an indoor community meeting or event.
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