TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced Wednesday morning that COVID-19 vaccinations will now be required for all city employees in order to better protect themselves and the community from the spread of the virus.
Employees, including those who are union members, must be fully vaccinated by Sept. 30 or show proof of having COVID-19 antibodies, Castor said. If an employee chooses not to get vaccinated, they must wear an N-95 mask and be tested for COVID once a week.
“Individuals saying that it’s their decision if they get vaccinated, how about the freedom of their co-workers? The people that are sitting next to them who have been vaccinated and may have comorbidities and COVID-19 could be a life-threatening issue for them. They have rights as well,” the mayor said. “This decision may not be the most popular but it is the right thing to do for all of our employees.”
The city isn’t the only employer requiring vaccines in Tampa Bay. Tidewell Hospice announced a vaccine mandate for workers, volunteers, and vendors.
“We provide a lot of care for a lot of people who are vulnerable,” said Chief Medical Office Dr. Neville Sarkari.
Under federal guidelines, employers can require proof of vaccination with medical and religious exemptions.
“I have yet to see any of these exemptions actually come to fruition,” St. Petersburg attorney Meredith Gaunce told 8 On Your Side.
To receive the medical exemption, employees must provide a doctor’s note explaining why the vaccine is a risk to their health, Gaunce said.
According to Gaunce, the religious exemption is more confusing.
“Honestly, we’re sort of waiting to see how that’s going to, how that’s going to play out because it really is very rare. There are very few religions that object completely to vaccinations,” she said.
Neville said the hospice is prepared for the fall out.
“I don’t know if we’ll lose anybody. We’re prepared that we may lose a few people,” he admits.
The City of Tampa is the first local government to impose an employee COVID-19 vaccine requirement.
As of Wednesday morning, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had yet to comment on the new mandate.