Elon’s board of aldermen mulled over several options this week to incentivize town staff to get vaccinated, with the aldermen ultimately responding to the town manager’s proposed “COVID policy” with revisions and suggestions.
Following the expiration of the town’s last policy in June, manager Richard Roedner drew up a plan that proposed 40 hours of paid sick leave for COVID-19 or adverse vaccine reactions for all employees and $200 incentives for those full-time and part-time employees who have gotten or do get the jab by November 1.
“What my goal is is to get people vaccinated,” Roedner told the board Tuesday during its roughly half-hour-long discussion on the policy. “I think that’s the stated goal of the CDC and the State of North Carolina and most other places as a way of getting people inoculated against the worst effects of the virus.”
Almost half of the town’s 61 full-time employees have informed the manager that they’ve been vaccinated, he said, even as the administration isn’t requiring staff to divulge their vaccination status. But of the town’s 10 part-time employees and 22 fire department volunteers, Roedner said that the town isn’t aware of their status.
The local government has also been hit with a cluster of COVID infections, with four employees currently out with the virus and another quarantining as a close contact.
The administration took a step earlier this year to incentivize staff to get their shots by setting up a lottery for the vaccinated to win two days of paid leave. But Roedner’s most recent suggestion has been the $200 bonuses regardless of whether individuals get the jab before or after the new policy is approved – a matter of fairness, he said, for those who have already rolled up their sleeves.
The 40 hours of paid sick leave is a decrease from the 80 hours that the town offered through the end of June.
While the board didn’t approve Roedner’s amended policy – Tuesday’s meeting was an agenda-setting session where the board reviews items that it will vote on at its regular session the following week – it did send him back with adjustments to consider.
Alderman Monti Allison suggested giving vaccinated staff two days of paid leave as an incentive, which he said could be of much greater value to employees than a cash bonus that would be considered taxable income. For her part, alderman Emily Sharpe asked Roedner to consider mandatory COVID testing every three days for both vaccinated and unvaccinated staff.
What hasn’t been mandated yet by the town, and what Roedner and alderman Mark Greene said they were wary of introducing, is mandatory vaccinations for staff.
“I think you have to be very, very thoughtful about a mandate,” Greene cautioned.
Speaking to his own stance on a mandate, the manager said earlier, “I’m not there right now. I don’t think it’s a bad idea, I just don’t think it would work in this environment.”