County Manager Column from Dec. 7, 2021

Vaccination/testing policy update

From the County Manager

Last Wednesday, Dec. 1, was the deadline for employees to certify their vaccination status. We’ve made quite a bit of progress since the Employee COVID-19 Proof of Vaccination and Testing Policy went into effect on Nov. 1, but still have a ways to go for all active employees to certify their status using the self-service function in Summit.

Overall, 88% of full- and part-time employees have certified their status – this is encouragingly up a full 10 percentage points from last week. Of the 88%, 78% have been fully vaccinated and 10% are not fully vaccinated and are providing weekly testing results per the policy. That leaves 12% of full- and part-time employees who have yet to certify.

When we look at all employees – including temporary, seasonal and intermittent – 82% have certified to their vaccination status. This is also up about 10 percentage points from last week.

Following existing disciplinary policies, this week Human Resources begins working with departments and labor partners to prepare written reprimands for those employees who have not yet certified their vaccination and testing status. This is the first disciplinary step we will be taking for employees who fail to comply with the vaccination or testing policy. This and future graduated steps come after more than a month of efforts to seek compliance without formal disciplinary steps. Ultimately, it is important to acknowledge that the board established a policy that is rooted in protecting the health of employees and every person Ramsey County serves. Almost nine out of 10 employees are already in compliance – thank you! Looking at the days ahead, it is our collective responsibility as an organization to ensure that all remaining individuals are also in compliance so that everyone feels safe walking in our doors.

Remember: As we have committed throughout preparation and rollout, protection of your privacy is a cornerstone of this policy. If discipline is necessary, supervisors will not be informed by Human Resources whether or not an employee has been vaccinated or is instead providing test results, only that an employee has not yet certified to their vaccination status and is in violation of the policy.

If you have not done so, please just take a few minutes right away to certify your vaccination status using the self-service tool in Summit – it’s quick and easy. If you need assistance using the online tool, please review the training materials or reach out directly to Human Resources whose staff can help you. We can do this!   

If you have certified and uploaded documents showing that you are fully vaccinated, you can expect to receive the $100 incentive in your paycheck before the end of the year. Thanks to those employees who took these steps early on.

If you have any questions about the policy, please read the FAQ or contact Human Resources.

As I’m sure you have seen, the new omicron variant of COVID-19 is spreading across the globe at a rapid pace with the first identified case in Hennepin County last week. A lot of unknowns remain about the omicron variant as public health experts continue to monitor its course and report findings, yet we do know that – as with other variants – vaccination remains effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “The recent emergence of omicron further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters.” 76% of all Ramsey County residents aged five and older have received at least one vaccine dose.

Boosters are now widely available for those who received their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago or Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago. Following public health guidance, if you are eligible for a booster we encourage you to get one. Boosters are not required in our vaccination and testing policy, however we are continually reviewing our vaccination policy following the latest COVID-19 developments and public health guidance.

I know we’ve been at this a long time and that it is by turns overwhelming and exhausting. Despite this, I take heart and each moment I remember that Ramsey County has remained a leader in the public fight against COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, consistently leading the metro counties in lowest case rates since this summer. This is due to the hard, sustained, creative and inclusive work of our employees and partners – led by our Public Health department – in providing leading-edge education, vaccinations, testing, engagement and more to protect our community. Please join me in again thanking and honoring all those across our organization who have contributed to this success driven by the determination to keep our community healthy and safe