Fairfax County officials took a step on Tuesday toward requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for most county workers.
The vaccinate mandate would be one of the first of its kind in the D.C. area.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted in support of requiring all county employees to be fully vaccinated before returning to in-person work. The decision affecting more than 12,000 county workers is ultimately up to the county executive.
County officials aim to keep residents safe as coronavirus rates tick up again, board chair Jeff McKay said.
“Keep in mind a lot of vulnerable people intersect with county employees, seeking services, and this is about protecting our residents, about protecting our county employees,” he said.
New cases of COVID-19 are trending up in the county and are at their highest level since early May. Vaccinations rates are high, with about 70% of adults fully vaccinated, but the county board said that isn’t good enough — especially as the delta variant of the virus spreads.
The vaccine mandate would carve out exceptions for people who cannot get vaccinated for medical or religious reasons. Those people — and anyone else who chooses not to get the vaccine — would have to wear a mask while working indoors and get tested for COVID-19 every week.
Ron Kuley, of the county firefighters’ union, said he thought the requirement made sense.
“I do believe that's reasonable, and I think that's also providing respect for people's choices for whatever reason they choose not to get a vaccine,” he said.
The requirement would not apply to Fairfax County Public Schools employees, who fall under the direction of the school board, not the county board. But McKay said it was made with school employees in mind as well.
“I’m very worried, particularly about our elementary school kids,” he said. “They're getting ready to report back to school, which — we need them in school, our parents need them in school, our economy needs them in school — and they're not eligible to be vaccinated.”
McKay said he expects the county executive to make a decision on the vaccine requirement within the next two weeks. If approved, that would give county workers enough time to get fully vaccinated because they’re set to return to the office in September.