Mandate: All city employees must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1

George Copeland Jr. | 8/5/2021, 6 p.m.
Richmond city employees are now required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, in a move announced Wednesday amid nationwide efforts to …
A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for injection during a mass vaccination event in late January at Richmond Raceway. Photo by Sandra Sellars

Richmond city employees are now required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, in a move announced Wednesday amid nationwide efforts to stem the rising surge in cases.

Those currently unvaccinated are required to get a first dose by Wednesday, Aug. 18, and full vaccination by Oct. 1.

Those already vaccinated are required to submit documentation of their vaccination status by Aug. 18 through the Virginia Department of Health.

The policy applies to about 3,600 city employees, including those in Richmond police, fire and social services departments, regardless of whether they’re working in person or remotely.

The City Department of Human Resources will be handling disciplinary action for those employees who do not adhere to the new requirement.

“We think that the best tool to ensure the safety of our residents and the safety of our employees is to ensure that everyone gets vaccinated if you can,” Mayor Levar M. Stoney said during a news conference Wednesday announcing the new mandate. “This is the right and proper step in a critical moment.”

Medical and religious exemptions for employees will be granted where appropriate, the mayor said, with signed medi- cal exemption requests from a licensed medical provider and notarized religious exemption requests required.

The city’s vaccination mandate doesn’t apply to public school employees. That decision falls to the Richmond School Board and schools Superintendent Jason Kamras.

The mandate also does not apply to people working for inde- pendent agencies such as the Richmond Ambulance Authority, the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority and the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority. It also does not apply to state-paid employees in the offices of the Richmond Circuit Court clerk, the commonwealth’s attorney, the treasurer, the sheriff and the voter registrar.

All city employees, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to follow safety guidelines and measures, including wear- ing masks indoors, based on guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, employees cannot opt out of the requirement just by wearing masks and getting frequent COVID-19 tests, the mayor’s office noted.

It’s unclear how many city employees already are fully vac- cinated, with anecdotal information supplied by various agency leaders suggesting that roughly 40 percent to 50 percent of the city’s workforce is vaccinated.

Mayor Stoney cited the steps taken both on the national level and by localities in Northern Virginia and Fairfax County as a major factor in this choice for city operations. The move comes as cases continue to rise statewide, with Virginia crossing 700,000 total COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and with the positivity rate continuing to climb.