PITTSFORD — While every Select Board member present expressed mixed feelings on the matter, the board is considering whether to require town employees be vaccinated, or in lieu of that, be tested regularly for COVID-19.
Town Manager John Haverstock said at the Sept. 15 Select Board meeting he’d seen media reports about federal and state COVID-19 vaccination mandates and wanted the board to have an opportunity to discuss the matter.
“Both (President Joe Biden) and (Gov. Phil Scott) have instructed their workforces that they must have a COVID vaccination or at least submit to weekly testing,” said Haverstock. “I really don’t know, because we haven’t really inquired, which among the town staffers may not be vaccinated. I just wanted you to have an opportunity, given that the president and the governor are encouraging other employers to follow suit, whether you, as a board, wants to insist that employees have the vaccination.”
The meeting was run by the board’s vice chairman, David Mills. Chairwoman Alicia Malay was absent.
“I think it’s a personal choice,” said Selectman Hank Pelkey. “That’s a tough question,” said Selectman Joe Gagnon, later adding that he’s been vaccinated but doesn’t feel he could direct someone else to follow suit.
“I have mixed feelings about it both ways,” said Selectman Thomas Hooker.
Mills said he was likewise conflicted.
Haverstock said he wasn’t advocating the board do one thing or another with regards to vaccine requirements.
Hooker lamented that it’s become such a contentious issue — both at the local level and across the nation. He said it’s important that the town keep its emergency service personnel safe.
“Kids have to be vaccinated to go to school now, even though we don’t have polio anymore,” said Hooker. “We don’t have any of these diseases we used to have, because of vaccines.”
Mills said it should be a personal choice whether to get vaccinated. He said he doesn’t have an issue with Haverstock consulting with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, and any unions that town employees belong to, to see whether the town can ask said employees about their vaccination status. On Tuesday, Haverstock said he’d been out of the office for the past few days and hadn’t yet reached out to VLCT or anyone else to inquire. Mills said it would be good to know these things if the pandemic worsens.
“I still don’t think we should force people to be vaccinated, but if you are unvaccinated maybe a weekly test would not be unreasonable,” he said at the meeting.