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Vaccine mandate pushed for Barnstable County employees before the holidays

County commissioners Ron Bergrstrom and Mark Forest weigh a vaccine mandate for county employees.
County commissioners Ron Bergrstrom and Mark Forest weigh a vaccine mandate for county employees.

Barnstable County employees may need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before the holidays.

Or they will likely be subject to regular testing.

Barnstable County Commissioners discussed the vaccine mandate last month and tasked their staff to come up with a recommended policy to vote on.

During a meeting Wednesday, County administrator Beth Albert said that they are still working on a draft. She says there’s a lot to creating a vaccine mandate.

“How are we going to handle exemptions, reasonable accommodations, and there's a lot of different ways a draft policy could be structured," Albert said. "So we’re trying to think through all of that and what works for Barnstable county, really being mindful to the administrative burden, and making sure we have legal council review everything.”

Albert said that a draft should be ready for a vote at the board’s next meeting in two weeks.

Commissioners agreed that a mandate should be in place by early November, before staff travel during the holidays.

Commissioner Sheila Lyons said that it’s important that unvaccinated workers get the shot before potentially travelling. She spoke to the importance of staff protecting not just themselves, but the community.

"Not only are you threatening yourself, your threatening children who do not have access and that is where we are seeing these upticks.”

Some school districts on the Cape have reported an increase in covid cases.

There are about 230 county employees that may be subject to the mandate, although commissioner and chairman of the board Ron Bergrstrom says he suspects over 80 percent of staff have been vaccinated.

Meantime, the Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to remain active on Cape Cod, where there are almost 40 new cases reported per day.

Deputy Director for Barnstable County Vaira Harik said Wednesday that more than a third of the new cases are among vaccinated residents, and that’s a similar breakdown of patients hospitalized with covid.

“We are continuing to accumulate cases and people are transmitting the virus among one another on a community-wide basis," Harik said. "We’re not seeing particular surges in any particular location. It’s community spread.”

More than 500 Cape residents have died from complications with COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

Harik said the high vaccination rates on the Cape are helping to keep hospitalizations down. She said 13 people were hospitalized as of Wednesday morning, which she said is much fewer compared to earlier in the pandemic.

Sam Houghton left CAI in February, 2023, to become News Editor at the Martha's Vineyard Times.
He worked at CAI since the summer of 2017. Before that, he worked at the Falmouth Enterprise, where he covered local politics.