City of Bethel announces vaccine mandate for employees

 Bethel, Alaska (KTUU)
Bethel, Alaska (KTUU) (KTUU)
Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 1:09 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A vaccine mandate for individuals working for the City of Bethel went into effect Monday.

The city will require all of its employees to receive the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or be fully vaccinated by Sept. 27 as a condition of further employment, unless a religious or medical exemption is acquired, according to a vaccination policy that was signed by City Manager Peter Williams on Monday.

Employees will need to apply for an exemption or notify human resources in writing within the next seven days, the policy states.

In a Tuesday afternoon phone call, Williams told Alaska’s News Source that Bethel attempted to require weekly testing from employees; however, the city ultimately deemed that vaccinations would be the best way to protect workers, as well as those that regularly come in contact with city employees.

“We consulted with the chief medical officer at YKHC and had a discussion about the tests,” Williams said. “The big concern here is that hospitals are full and that probably the next 3 months are going to get worse ... I couldn’t see any end in sight and the only safe way that I and the group felt we could make things work is to just make sure everybody is vaccinated.”

The city manager also noted that out of the city’s 104 employees, 17 are currently not vaccinated.

According to the policy, new hires, consultants, contractors and volunteers will need to show proof of immunization for employment as well.

“We expected this to cause an uproar and we’re ready to accept the consequences,” Williams said. “We think we’re on firm legal ground.”

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