Pennsylvania Governor Levies New Pressure for State Workers to Get Vaccinated

By Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje
Reporter
Beth Brelje is an investigative journalist covering Pennsylvania politics, courts, and the commonwealth’s most interesting and sometimes hidden news. Send her your story ideas:
August 10, 2021 Updated: August 10, 2021

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has announced new vaccination rules for state workers.

All commonwealth employees in state health care facilities and high-risk congregate care facilities will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 7. Those who are not vaccinated will be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. And beginning Sept. 7, all new external hires in these facilities must be vaccinated before commencing employment.

This new rule will affect approximately 25,000 employees working in 24-hour-operated state facilities including state hospitals, state homes for people with intellectual disabilities, veterans homes, community health centers, and state correction institutions, a statement from the governor’s office said.

In addition to the ”vaccine or test” requirement, Wolf announced a vaccine incentive for state employees under the governor’s jurisdiction. Starting Oct. 1, all vaccinated state employees under the governor’s jurisdiction are eligible for an additional 7.5 or 8 hours paid time off. The Pennsylvania Office of Administration will work with employees and agencies to develop a mechanism for employees to confirm proof of vaccination.

The Wolf administration says it is actively working with state employee unions on implementation of these policies.

“As a leading employer in Pennsylvania, the commonwealth must stand up and provide an example for other businesses to follow,” Wolf said in a prepared statement. “It is vitally important that employees have the confidence that they can safely work and serve their fellow Pennsylvanians. Even more importantly, we hope this incentive will help Pennsylvanians stay healthy and safe from dangerous variants of COVID-19.”

Currently, more than 63​ percent of Pennsylvanians 18 and older are fully vaccinated, with the state ranking fifth among all 50 states for total doses administered, according to the statement.

“Pennsylvania has had a lot of success in our vaccination efforts, but 63 percent is not the goal,” Wolf said. “Sixty-three percent still leaves far too many eligible Pennsylvanians unvaccinated, which puts their communities at risk. Vaccines are free, available, and effective. I encourage every eligible Pennsylvanian who hasn’t gotten vaccinated to sign up today.”

All Pennsylvanians age​s 12 and older are eligible to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine.

Wolf made the announcement Tuesday alongside Lancaster General Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Ripchinski, who spoke on the importance of vaccinations and the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine. As part of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, Lancaster General Hospital is working to educate and vaccinate all employees and clinical staff by Sept. 1.

Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje
Reporter
Beth Brelje is an investigative journalist covering Pennsylvania politics, courts, and the commonwealth’s most interesting and sometimes hidden news. Send her your story ideas: