NEWBURGH HEIGHTS, Ohio (WJW)– Get vaccinated or pack up. That’s the message the mayor of Newburgh Heights is sending to employees by implementing a new policy mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for all staff.
Under the policy, employees who refuse to comply will be face termination Sept. 1. Exemptions include employees who cite religious beliefs or have a documented medical condition where vaccination would be inappropriate.
“It’s a health issue and we’re not going to apologize for being on the front end of taking care of people,” said Mayor and Safety Director Trevor Elkins.
The issue reached a boiling point during a village council meeting earlier this week. Both the police and fire chief stated the policy would force some current employees to resign and hurt their ability to recruit, putting public safety at risk.
“I am not in favor of this policy,” said Police Chief John Majoy. “I understand the spirit behind it, while I do encourage the vaccination, people to get it. I think at this should be revisited.”
The fire chief said he might lose five current employees to other departments putting even more of a burden on firefighters who stay on.
“People have literally six months at this stage to go get their vaccination, to do the research they need to find out this is completely safe,” Elkins said.
The mayor said of the nearly 100 people employed by the village, more than 50 percent have received a vaccination. He said a small number of employees have stated they do not plan to get the shot.
The area’s largest hospitals including the Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth and University Hospitals do not mandate employees become vaccinated.
Council-at-Large Member Linda Giersz suggested to the make the vaccination policy apply only to new hires, instead of allowing potential terminations of long-time employees. The idea sparked a disagreement during the village council meeting between Elkins and Giersz.
“These guys are already working here,” she said. “To force them to get this vaccination, I just don’t think it’s right. I don’t need to back it with science.”
The mayor said he recovered from COVID, but still has lingering complications including a racing heartbeat and fatigue.
“Are there potentially employees that are going to stand their ground say, ‘I’m not going to get the vaccine?’ Yes there may be, I would question those individuals’ commitment to the public safety.”
Elkins said the policy had been researched by the village law department prior to implementation.