Gov. Wolf Tells 25K Pa. Health, Prison Workers: COVID Vaccine or Test

'As well as we're doing, it's not good enough,' Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said. 'With the vaccine we actually have the ability to do even better'

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What to Know

  • About 25,000 state employees working in Pennsylvania’s state prisons or health care and congregate care facilities are getting about a month to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or take weekly tests for the virus.
  • Gov. Tom Wolf announced Tuesday that workers in those jobs — and all new hires at those facilities — have until Sept. 7 to get fully vaccinated or face regular testing.
  • Philadelphia City Council is also mandating a COVID-19 vaccine requirement. Those who chose not to get the vaccine will face weekly coronavirus testing.

About 25,000 employees of Pennsylvania's prisons and state health care and congregate care facilities have about a month to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or take weekly tests for the virus, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Tuesday.

Wolf said workers in those jobs — and all new hires at those facilities — have until Sept. 7 to get fully vaccinated. In addition to the Corrections Department, it applies to state hospitals, veterans' homes, community health centers, prisons and homes for those with intellectual disabilities.

The state Health Department said this week that 63.8% of adult state residents are fully vaccinated, although there were nearly 4,100 positive cases over a recent three-day stretch. So far, more than 1.2 million Pennsylvanians have been infected with the coronavirus and nearly 28,000 have died from it.

The two-week moving average of cases has been on the rise in Pennsylvania, where daily vaccinations have recently averaged about 14,000 people.

Starting Oct. 1, all state workers who prove they are fully vaccinated will also be given an extra day off of work as an incentive to increase the vaccination rate.

“We want to reward those who have already gotten the vaccine and encourage those who have not yet decided to get the vaccine, to get the vaccine,” the Democratic governor said at a news conference in Harrisburg to lay out the new policy and encourage vaccinations generally.

Wolf’s policy directive stops well short of requiring all state workers to get vaccinated or tested and he has said he does not expect to require schoolchildren to wear masks as the academic year approaches.

“As well as we're doing, it's not good enough. With the vaccine we actually have the ability to do even better,” Wolf said.

Early last month, he vetoed a Republican-crafted bill to ban so-called COVID-19 “vaccine passports” in some cases and to restrict the health secretary’s actions during health emergencies.

The vetoed bill would have prevented colleges and universities that receive state money from mandating proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter buildings, attend class in person or undertake any activity. State and local governmental entities would have been similarly restricted, and governments would not have been allowed to include coronavirus vaccine status on ID cards.

Philadelphia City Council Requiring COVID Vaccines

Every member of Philadelphia City Council and their staffs must be vaccinated against COVID-19 before the start of the next council session on Sept. 16.

"This action is to ensure the health and safety of every employee, as Council takes steps to return to in-person work, and to allow the public into Council’s chambers in City Hall to observe and participate in Council’s legislative business," council said in a Tuesday news release.

Any of the 190 or so council workers who chose to not follow the vaccine mandate will face weekly COVID-19 testing, similar to the Pennsylvania state plan.

“The public has a right to see and participate in the business of their City Council," Democratic Council President Darrell Clarke (5th District) said. "At the same time, we must balance that right with public health and safety. With the rise in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant, we must act to protect the public and Council. That’s why we are requiring that all Council employees be vaccinated."

Philly is averaging around 180 COVID-19 cases daily. Around 63% of adults in the city are fully vaccinated, while around 77% of adults have at least one dose.

Pittsburgh to Delay School Year?

Pittsburgh’s school board may delay the start of school for about two weeks because of a shortage of bus drivers, district officials said Tuesday.

The district is working on getting drivers for about 6,000 students, but contractors need time to get drivers hired and ready for work.

If the board gives its OK, it will delay the start of school from Aug. 25 to Sept. 8.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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