RICHMOND, Va. -- City of Richmond employees have an initial deadline this Wednesday to comply with Mayor Levar Stoney's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The city's roughly 3,600 have to either provide proof they are fully vaccinated, get a religious or medical exemption, or have had at least their first dose by August 18. For the latter group, they must be fully vaccinated by October 1.
"If people refuse to be vaccinated, that means they do not choose to submit an exemption for religious or medical reasons, then there's...potential for escalating disciplinary actions that may occur," said Stoney at a Tuesday news briefing. "That can end up being the possibility of leave without pay or the possibility of termination."
Stoney said he did not have early figures on the number of employees that have fallen into each category.
"It's our expectation that come October 1, our goal will be to get to 100%. We want everyone to be safe while working here, while being a part of this workforce," added Stoney. "But, also we want to make sure that our residents stay safe when interacting with the City of Richmond employees."
Stoney also encouraged other Richmonders who have not gotten the vaccine to reconsider.
As of Tuesday, just over 51-percent of the city's adult population was fully vaccinated. In comparison, 63% of Chesterfield, 66% of Henrico, and 67% of Hanover adults are fully vaccinated.
"The virus isn't taking a break and we should not let our foot off the gas," Mayor Stoney said.
The Third Shot
City of Richmond health leaders said they are preparing for the possibility that COVID-19 booster shots could soon be approved by federal officials.
Dr. Melissa Viray, Deputy Director of the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts, said the guidance could come as early as this week for COVID-19 booster shots for those who got the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
"An additional dose to boost your winning immunity for the general public -- around eight months after that initial series," Viray said.
That would put those who first received the vaccine in Virginia -- healthcare workers and long-term care residents -- eligible sometime in September.
Dr. Viray said they are also planning for an influx of people getting vaccinated driven by anticipated approval for children ages five to 11. She added she hopes that the full approval, versus Emergency Use Authorization, for the Pfizer vaccine will also lead to an uptick in vaccination.
She said reopening mass vaccination clinics was an option, but was not expected to be needed.
"We have a large number of providers and pharmacies who are able to take on a lot of the vaccination for our population," she said.
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) also released a statement Wednesday on the anticipated booster shots.
“In Virginia, we are monitoring the situation and planning through all of the logistical considerations,” said State Vaccine Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula “If booster vaccine doses are recommended for the general population, the rollout of those boosters will likely take place over several months, as the expected recommendation is that a booster dose should be given within a defined time frame after your second dose. VDH and local health departments now have experience in planning and carrying out the logistics of a large-scale vaccination effort, and rebooting that for booster doses will not be an issue. The infrastructure for administering the booster doses is already in place.”