Philly not yet mandating vaccines for city workers

Adolescents receive COVID-19 vaccine
A vaccinator draws a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Philadelphia.
REUTERS/Hannah Beier

Municipal workers in Philadelphia currently do not have to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, but city officials have not ruled out mandating shots.

Earlier this week, California and New York City told government employees to get inoculated in the near future or be prepared to undergo COVID-19 testing at least once a week. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also said it will require its staff to be vaccinated.

“We continue to strongly encourage and incentivize our city workers, many of whom have been on the frontlines of the pandemic, to get vaccinated, since we know that vaccination is one of the best ways to stop the spread and impact of COVID-19,” city spokesperson Joy Huertas said in a statement.

“We will continue to assess the need to implement a vaccination mandate for our city workers and may make this a requirement at a future date,” she added.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance Tuesday saying that fully vaccinated people should wear masks in indoor public spaces in areas with high or substantial viral spread.

Philadelphia and its Pennsylvania suburbs fall into the CDC’s moderate category, meaning transmission rates are lower.

The masking recommendations would apply to Burlington County, New Jersey, and several counties in Pennsylvania, including Monroe and Northampton, according to federal data.

In response to an uptick in coronavirus cases, city officials last week “strongly recommended” residents wear masks inside at public places. The decision was also motivated by a small number of children ineligible for the vaccine being hospitalized with COVID-19.

Fears continue over the possibility of another pandemic wave due to the Delta variant, which is more transmissible than previous virus strains.

The CDC said infections in fully vaccinated people, known as ‘breakthrough’ cases, are rare and tend to be mild; however, preliminary evidence indicates that vaccinated people can pass the Delta variant to others.

People in regions with moderate or low COVID-19 transmission may want to mask up anyway, especially if they are immunocompromised, according to the CDC guidance.

The recommendations say students should return to in-person learning five days a week but that all schools should implement universal masking.

Unvaccinated residents continue to be asked to wear facial coverings in most settings.

Philadelphia registered 384 confirmed cases for the week of July 11, up from a low of 144 infections during the week of June 27. Positive test rates, which had dipped below 1% in early June, are up to 3%.

Nearly 918,000 residents, or 74% of the city’s adult population, have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to the Department of Public Health. CDC data indicates that more than 87% of residents over the age of 65 are partially or fully vaccinated.

Outside of Philadelphia, 62.5% of Pennsylvania adults are fully vaccinated.