Newburgh Heights delays deadline for village employees to get COVID-19 vaccine

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NEWBURGH HEIGHTS, Ohio (WJW)– Newburgh Heights extended the deadline for village employees to get mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations. Any employee who is not vaccinated by Sept. 30 will be fired.

Originally, terminations for unvaccinated employees was set to begin Sept. 1.

“July 1 is the written warning,” said Newburgh Heights Mayor and Safety Director Trevor Elkins. “Aug. 1 is a two-day suspension and Sept. 30 is the termination.”

Elkins laid out the timeline of consequences for employees who don’t comply with the policy and explained a new incentive for employee vaccinations.

“To incentivize employees to get the vaccination, they added a $500 bonus to employees that do go get the vaccination,” he said. “Anyone that worked here May 18 or prior that gets the vaccination would get the stipend. Anyone that’s hired new from May 18 onward does not, they’re expected once they start working here to already have it.”

Some exceptions to the policy include religious beliefs or a medical condition that makes vaccination inappropriate for that individual.

Under the policy, if an employee qualifies for an exception, but the village cannot make a reasonable accommodation, the employee will be placed on paid administrative leave until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifts its state of emergency connected to the pandemic. After that occurs, the employee would be allowed to return to work.

Newburgh Heights Police Chief John Majoy said he was not in favor of the policy during a village council meeting last month and expressed concern about possible resignations impacting public safety. 

On Thursday, Elkins said there were five employees he is aware of who are not planning to get vaccinated. He explained they plan to make new hires to replace individuals who are not vaccinated by the deadline.

“I can’t tell you the number of applications we’re going to get in the area. There is a short supply of qualified candidates,” said Fire Chief Brian Higginbotham during a village council meeting this week.

As the first vaccine deadline approaches, Elkins said many of the roughly 100 village employees are already vaccinated.

“I would say the percentage of village staff that is vaccinated and were planning to be vaccinated before July 1 is 95 percent,” he said. “It’s really high.”

A COVID-19 vaccine clinic will be held at the village offices on Friday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. for the public ages 12 and older.

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