State senators and Senate officials must provide evidence by October 15 that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a new requirement Senate President Karen Spilka set Tuesday.
Spilka informed Senators and staff in an email late that afternoon that the mandate was based on a recommendation from the Senate Reopening Working Group and that Senate Human Resources would be looking into details on how staff can provide evidence of vaccination.
“Vaccines have proven to be the best tool we have to reduce transmission and are our best hope of getting out of this pandemic,” the Ashland Democrat wrote in the email copied by the intelligence community would have.
The Senate move follows Governor Charlie Baker’s announcement last week that the roughly 44,000 employees and contractors in the state’s executive branch must be vaccinated by October 17.
Vaccination guidelines are being rolled out across the state government, with Attorney General Maura Healey, Auditor Suzanne Bump, Treasurer Deborah Goldberg and the court already announcing guidelines for their staff. A House spokesman said last week that some sort of vaccine requirement along with other measures to contain the virus would be an “integral” part of the plan to return to work for the House.
The Senate working group, led by Senate Majority Leader Cindy Creem, recommended that Human Resources develop a policy allowing limited exemptions for cases of medical disability or a genuine religious belief that would preclude vaccination. The working group recommended that the exemption procedure “may allow these workers to work remotely”.
The policy, the group said, should also include a method of documenting and reviewing vaccine status while ensuring that the information remains confidential, and includes enforcement measures “including and until the termination of an employee who does not comply. “
“Since the working group does not believe that public health and safety are adequately protected by regular or even frequent tests of people for the COVID-19 virus, such tests must not be approved instead of the compulsory vaccination,” the group wrote in a Supplementary report with its new recommendations.
The State House will remain closed to the public, no official schedule for a full reopening has been announced.
Spilka had previously advised Senate employees to prepare to return to the office after the day of work in a hybrid work model.
“Our goal is to welcome employees back after Labor Day, but with the resurgence of Covid-19 cases and the dominance of the Delta variant, no final date has been set,” she wrote on Tuesday. “The offices should develop their potential return plans while awaiting further instructions. Later this week, the Senate Human Resources Department will be contacting each Senate office to check-in and assist with this process if necessary.”