SAN ANTONIO – On Monday, California and New York City announced that all government employees must get the coronavirus vaccine or submit weekly virus tests.
The move was announced as the nation sees an increase in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations due to the delta variant. The Department of Veteran Affairs announced a similar policy, becoming the first federal agency to mandate the vaccine or tests.
“An individual’s choice not to get vaccinated is now impacting the rest of us in a profound and devastating and deadly way,” said California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Public health experts believe the mandates may lead more government entities to impose their own requirements. That’s a step currently being considered in San Antonio and Bexar County, according to a joint statement from Mayor Ron Nirenberg and County Judge Nelson Wolff.
“We are supportive of the efforts of New York and California,” the elected officials said in a statement. “We will be reviewing the legalities and practicalities of requiring a COVID-19 vaccine and/or weekly testing in conformity with CDC guidelines in order to protect the health and well-being of city/county workforce.”
The local officials’ approach may be at odds with that of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has banned state agencies and companies that contract with the state from requiring proof of vaccination from customers. Nothing prohibits them, though, from mandating vaccines for its employees.
“Texas is open 100%, and we want to make sure you have the freedom to go where you want without limits,” Abbott said shortly before signing the law. “Vaccine passports are now prohibited in the Lone Star State.”
With the rise in COVID-19 infection levels locally, some officials have already begun to alter their operations.
District 9 Councilman John Courage, for example, announced Tuesday that his staffers are working virtually again.
“This was not an easy decision, but I need to do everything possible to stop the spread and lower the risk to our community,” Courage said in a statement.
Meanwhile, local vaccination numbers show that residents between ages 19 and 39 still lag behind older residents. More than 60% of people older than 40 fully vaccinated, while less than half of adults younger than 40 have received both jabs, according to data provided by local officials.
Regardless of a vaccine mandate on municipal employees, officials remain concerned about the low vaccination rates, which they say is contributing to the spread of the virus.
Last week, Wolff said that up to 97% of the patients battling the virus in the hospital are unvaccinated.
“For those that chose not to get vaccinated, I would hope that (the hospitalizations) would send a clear message to everybody,” Wolff said. “You better go get your vaccination. It’s a little late to ask for the vaccination when you’re fixing to go on a ventilator.”