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Summerville votes to continue COVID leave pay for only vaccinated employees, those with valid shot exemptions

Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 2:43 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 27, 2021 at 7:34 PM EDT

SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCSC) - Summerville’s town council has decided to extend its COVID leave pay for only vaccinated employees or those with a legitimate medical or religious exemption for getting the shot.

However, the vote was not unanimous. Some town council members worried excluding the unvaccinated from COVID leave pay would be an act of discrimination, but others wanted to make sure the money would only go to town employees who were doing everything they could to protect themselves amid the pandemic.

One council member also brought up concerns about how the town would verify an employee’s vaccination status.

However, those challenges were not enough to stop the policy’s approval.

Now, if a vaccinated employee gets sick with COVID they will have access to pay outside of their general PTO and sick leave. It’s not yet clear though when this will take effect. The town council left it up to the town’s new administrator to decide. She told council members she wanted to make sure employees who had not yet gotten the vaccine had an opportunity to do so.

The town’s police and fire chiefs both said they are happy the council made this decision in an effort to help protect first responders and other town employees.

“We don’t want our people coming to work sick for one, so we encourage them strongly to stay home if they are ill. Of course, if they come to work with the virus, they could pass it on to other personnel at the station,” Summerville Fire Chief Richard Waring said. “We live in very close quarters in fire houses, so any opportunity we can do to help our people when they are off and when they are ill with COVID is better for us.”

Summerville’s town council also decided not to mandate that employees wear masks within town-owned buildings. However, they did task the town administrator with putting signs up that strongly encourage them.

This continues the town’s policy that has been in place since April that strongly encourages all citizens to wear masks in all public, indoor areas.

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