The Mercury (Pottstown, PA)

Wolf tells 25,000 state workers: Vaccine or test

- By Mark Scolforo

HARRISBURG >> Some 25,000 employees of Pennsylvan­ia’s prisons and state health care and congregate care facilities have about a month to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or take weekly tests for the virus, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Tuesday.

Wolf said workers in those jobs — and all new hires at those facilities — have until Sept. 7 to get fully vaccinated. In addition to the Correction­s Department, it applies to state hospitals, veterans’ homes, community health centers and homes for those with intellectu­al disabiliti­es.

The state Health Department said this week that 63.8% of adult state residents are fully vaccinated, although there were nearly

4,100 positive cases over a recent three-day stretch. So far, more than 1.2 million Pennsylvan­ians have been infected with the coronaviru­s and nearly 28,000 have died from it.

The two-week moving average of cases has been on the rise in Pennsylvan­ia, where daily vaccinatio­ns have recently averaged about 14,000 people.

Starting Oct. 1, all state workers under Wolf’s jurisdicti­on who prove they are fully vaccinated will also be given an extra day off of work as an incentive to increase the vaccinatio­n rate.

“We want to reward those who have already gotten the vaccine and encourage those who have not yet decided to get the vaccine, to get the vaccine,” the Democratic governor said at a news conference in Harrisburg to lay out the new policy and encourage vaccinatio­ns generally.

State House Republican caucus spokesman Jason Gottesman said Wolf was getting involved in private health care decisions “and coercing hesitant Pennsylvan­ians to get the vaccine, which is ultimately a private matter between the individual and their health care provider.”

A spokesman for the correction­al officers’ union offered no immediate comment, saying the policy changes is under review.

Wolf’s policy directive stops well short of requiring all state workers he oversees — which is most of them — to get vaccinated or tested and he has said he does not expect to require schoolchil­dren to wear masks as the academic year approaches.

“As well as we’re doing, it’s not good enough. With the vaccine we actually have the ability to do even better,” Wolf said.

Early last month, he vetoed a Republican-crafted bill to ban so-called COVID-19 “vaccine passports” in some cases and to restrict the health secretary’s actions during health emergencie­s.

The vetoed bill would have prevented colleges and universiti­es that receive state money from mandating proof of COVID-19 vaccinatio­n to enter buildings, attend class in person or undertake any activity. State and local government­al entities would have been similarly restricted, and government­s would not have been allowed to include coronaviru­s vaccine status on ID cards. PITTSBURGH SCHOOLS

Pittsburgh’s school board may delay the start of school for about two weeks because of a shortage of bus drivers, district officials said Tuesday.

The district is working on getting drivers for about 6,000 students, but contractor­s need time to get drivers hired and ready for work.

If the board gives its OK, it will delay the start of school from Aug. 25 to Sept. 8.

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