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Baltimore County Will Provide COVID Tests At Work For Its Unvaccinated Employees

Baltimore County Council Chairman Julian Jones
Courtesy Julian Jones
Baltimore County Council Chairman Julian Jones. Courtesy: Julian Jones

Baltimore County employees who don’t get the COVID-19 vaccine will not have to worry about finding where to get a required weekly test. The county council was told Tuesday night employees will be tested in county buildings.

That touched off a debate over whether the county was making it too easy for unvaccinated employees.

County Council Chairman Julian Jones, a Democrat, questioned if the county is becoming an enabler for the unvaccinated.

“If we’re going to do it at work, we’re going to make it easier for the people who don’t get vaccinated to continue to not get vaccinated,” Jones said. “What are we doing?”

“I think we’re at a point where the people who are not getting vaccinated are not getting vaccinated for a whole host of reasons. But the idea is to not just encourage but sort of put some obstacles in their way to make them get the vaccine.”

County Administrative Officer Stacy Rodgers said providing testing onsite means employees will lose less time from work. Rodgers said onsite testing was worked out with the employees’ unions.

Councilman David Marks, a Republican, said union leaders are hearing objections to the vaccine-or-testing mandate.

“I know that these are not popular decisions with many of their members,” Marks said.

Rodgers said it’s also getting harder to find COVID testing in the community and that the county health department was too busy to provide them after hours.

“They did not feel like they could expand any more hours in the evening based on their own workload,” Rodgers said.

She pointed out that the health department soon will be dealing with booster shots and vaccinating children between the ages of 5 and 12.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski announced the vaccine-or-testing requirement for county employees September 9. It is supposed to take effect October 15, although Rodgers said the county may push it back to November 1 to give them more time to set up the program.

Starting October 1, vaccinated employees are asked to register with the county.

“Those who are not vaccinated, we have to then look at the logistics as to where they work,” Rodgers said.

She said the county has 1,600 buildings and facilities.

Rodgers did not say how much the onsite testing will cost the county, but added it will be “a wash” because the county would have had to pay employees overtime if they got the testing done in the community after hours.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2