Encinitas to require vaccination or COVID-19 testing for employees

Encinitas will require workers to get vaccinated or tested for COVID-19.

Encinitas is starting to require all city employees to either provide evidence of vaccination or undergo regular testing for the coronavirus.

The city’s management team announced it had reached an agreement with the city’s largest union — the Service Employees International Union — last week on a new mandatory vaccination requirement. City officials also are in talks with the city’s firefighters’ union.

Firefighter union representatives have agreed to weekly testing for the union’s unvaccinated members, but the union has opposed a vaccine mandate, a city news release states. The union represents 50 employees, including firefighter/paramedics, and 36 percent of them are unvaccinated.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 221 represents a wide range of city employees, including code enforcement people, finance technicians, geographic information system analysts, and utility and maintenance workers. Out of the 106 currently active SEIU members, 78 percent have been confirmed as vaccinated, statistics released Thursday, Sept. 2, indicate.

Under the new agreement, the SEIU members must show proof of vaccination beginning Oct. 7. That date was picked because it marks 45 days since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the city reports.

“This agreement will allow all of us to continue doing our part to keep our employees and our community as safe as possible,” City Manager Pamela Antil said in the news release as she announced the agreement and thanked the union members for working on it.

In the same news release, Mayor Catherine Blakespear said the new requirement would provide both city workers and the general public with a greater sense of safety.

“We do not want to be the cause of any infections and we know the vaccine is the best way to stop the spread of coronavirus,” she said. “We want people to have the confidence when they come into City Hall to conduct business or when our employees enter their homes that we are doing all we can to protect them.”

The SEIU union vaccination agreement is similar to what was announced for non-union city employees last month. According to city statistics provided Thursday, Sept. 2, 94 percent of the non-union city employees have provided confirmation of vaccination.

When she announced the non-union members’ vaccination requirement last month, Antil said the city was pursuing the vaccination mandate because of the rising number of COVID-19 cases in San Diego County. On Wednesday, Sept. 1, the county health department reported that 49 people had died of coronavirus in the past week — nearly double the number reported for the previous week. Most of the people who have died recently of coronavirus were unvaccinated, the county reported.