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Unvaccinated Baltimore County employees not at risk of being fired

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski announces vaccination requirement for county employees. Credit: Sean Naron, Baltimore County
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Credit: Baltimore County

More than 70% of Baltimore County’s workforce has been vaccinated for COVID-19. As the county prepares to lift protective restrictions in county buildings, Executive Johnny Olszewski said those employees who remain unvaccinated will not lose their jobs.

The county announced earlier this week that on February 28 the masking mandate in county buildings will end. Unvaccinated employees will no longer have to get a weekly COVID test.

Appearing Thursday on WYPR’s Midday with Tom Hall, Olszewski was pressed on whether those unvaccinated employees should be terminated so they are not putting the public at risk now that protective measures are being dropped.

Hall asked Olszewski, “Why not make it a condition of employment to have a vaccine?”

Olszewski said that’s not necessary, pointing out that home test kits and masks are available for those who want them.

“Between our very high vaccination rate and the availability of these high quality masks and tests, we feel pretty comfortable taking this step and not having to take those additional actions that you mentioned,” Olszewski said.

“We’ve done everything we can to incentivize people to get vaccinated. We’ve allowed for paid time off to go get the vaccination.”

Olszewski announced in September the mandatory testing program for employees who did not report their vaccination status. It took nearly three months to put it in place. The unions resisted it. Democratic Councilman Julian Jones criticized it for enabling those employees who refused to be vaccinated.

Officials said termination was an option for those who did not participate. According to Sean Naron, Olszewski’s press secretary, no employee was fired or reprimanded for refusing to take the weekly test.

The county has approximately 9,000 employees.

The county’s overall vaccination rate is nearing 80%.

The county’s COVID positivity rate is around 3%.

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