All current and newly hired D.C. government employees, including public school teachers, will be required to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 19. Those who apply for religious or medical exemption will have to produce weekly negative COVID-19 test results.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), flanked by government officials and labor leaders, revealed the policy update at the John A. Wilson Building on Tuesday amid a rise in COVID-19 cases across the region and an ongoing campaign to vaccinate all District residents against the virus.
Recent DC Health data shows an increase in COVID-19 cases among the unvaccinated, including people between the ages of 25 and 34 and, to a lesser degree, young people between the ages of 5 and 14.
Meanwhile, Black youth eligible for the vaccine haven’t followed through in getting it as much as their racial counterparts.
“We know our teachers work with students who will not be vaccinated so they’ll keep them safe which means if they don’t vaccinate, they’ll test,” said Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) President Jackie Pogue-Lyons. “We’re encouraging people to get vaccinated and we’re working with the mayor and chancellor to get our families to buy into the vaccine.”
In the weeks since the delta variant appeared, local, state and federal offices have moved to mandate vaccinations.
Toward the end of July, President Joe Biden (D) announced a vaccine mandate for federal government employees. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, recently predicted that the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the vaccine would spur mandates across the private sector as well.
As of Tuesday, nearly 60 percent of District government employees have reported their vaccination status. Among those who reported, 54 percent have been fully vaccinated. Pogue-Lyons said figures compiled by the American Federation of Teachers show national teacher vaccination rates at 90 percent.
In regards to local teacher vaccination data, the WTU has a process in the works through which teachers can report their status.
The WTU has also been in discussion with DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee about finalizing a memorandum of agreement that outlines the conditions under which public school teachers would conduct in-person learning this upcoming school year.
Last week, DCPS updated its quarantine guidance in accordance with recently adjusted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that define close contact as three feet in K-12 classrooms, and six feet in nontraditional settings.
The District reported nearly 500 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, 19 of which were designated as backlogged. As of this month, vaccine coverage remains below 60 percent much to the chagrin of DC Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt.
“We see the majority of our cases since the vaccine has been available have occurred in people who are not vaccinated,” Nesbitt said on Tuesday.
“We are seeing an increase in breakthrough cases but the vaccine is working. Ninety percent of the people in the hospitals are not vaccinated. It’s important that we offer the tools to offer vaccines where appropriate. We’re better off as a community once everyone is vaccinated,” she said.