DuPage County is working to develop a policy for county government employees to fall in line with new COVID-19 vaccination and testing requirements imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Discussion on this topic at Tuesday’s county finance committee meeting hinged on a new federal mandate that applies to businesses employing 100-plus people. It calls upon the county to assemble a vaccination roster, provide paid leave for employees, require face coverings to be worn and comply with weekly testing or be vaccinated. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently reviewing the policy.
“I can’t stress enough how quickly the landscape is changing on this one,” Chief Administrative Officer Nick Kottmeyer said. “I know the Supreme Court is hearing this as we speak. They have not issued any kind of opinion or a stay. I know last night the state of Illinois adopted it. So, the landscape is changing dramatically.”
County staff is currently recommending a testing policy that requires employees who are unvaccinated to submit proof of weekly testing to an immediate supervisor, disqualifies rapid/point-of-care/home tests that are not witnessed by an independent third party, and provides pay to support the completion of testing.
It remains unclear how many county government employees are already vaccinated. But the county’s health department already has a weekly testing policy in place for its employees who are unvaccinated.
“We might have a big list of testers, we might have a smaller list of people that need testing,” said Margaret Ewing, the county’s director of human resources. “We may find that this is not as monumental of a task.”
County staff is working to determine the extent to which they are equipped to store and manage vaccination and testing data in house.
Board member Liz Chaplin acknowledged that developing the testing policy is a big undertaking for county staff. “It’s frustrating for some people,” Chaplin said. “It’s overwhelming, I’m sure, for you guys to have to do all this, but it really is to keep our employees safe.”
Board member Jim Zay asked if there would be exemptions to the policy for religion and health reasons.
Ewing stressed that it’s a testing requirement, not a vaccine mandate. “There’s not really a need for an exemption,” Ewing said. “You would ask for an exemption if your employer was mandating that you get the vaccine.”
Anyone who declines to report their vaccination status would automatically fall in the pool that is subject to weekly testing.
OSHA will not penalize employers for non-compliance with the testing requirements before February 9.
Officials intend to adapt to the landscape accordingly should different direction be provided.
“Right now given what we know, we are moving forward as if the mandate is in place because that’s the latest information we have,” Kottmeyer said.
The county board plans to give the vaccination/testing policy consideration as early as its January 25 meeting.
Naperville News 17’s Megann Horstead reports.
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