With COVID-19 cases once again surging locally, the Murray City Council decided to reintroduce something that has been used in the past year to ease the situation for city employees who contract the disease.
However, there is a catch this time. What is referred to as “COVID days” that the federal government began implementing in 2020 will be granted only for employees who have been vaccinated for the coronavirus. Thursday, the council approved up to 10 such days for vaccinated employees as the federal mandate for all employees has expired.
“I heard that from somebody a few days ago and thought that made a lot of sense,” said Mayor Bob Rogers, who brought the recommendation to the forefront during his Mayor’s Report. The measure passed unanimously.
“Right now, our policy is that there are no more COVID days like there were last year, so we’ve been telling (employees) that they have to take whatever days they’ve got. So if you get COVID and you’ve been vaccinated like you’re asked to do, then we will allow you to have up to 10 COVID days and, hopefully, that doesn’t penalize people.”
This means that employees who are not vaccinated and contract the virus will not receive the 10-day option. Councilman Burton Young wanted to take this further and asked for a vote that the city incorporate a mandate that all employees be vaccinated.
“I can’t see us as a city council directly condoning people who don’t have vaccines to be employees of the city. If they want to present themselves to this council and tell us why they won’t take the vaccine, I’d love to hear it,” Young said.
Councilman Dan Miller intervened and asked for a table of the measure until City Attorney Warren Hopkins can examine the legal issues of such a rule. However, in asking for the delay of a vote, Miller acknowledged Young’s request that council members indicate whether or not they are in favor of having employees vaccinated. An overwhelming majority raised their hands in favor of it.
Councilwoman Pat Seiber did ask if there was a way to know how many employees are not vaccinated. Rogers said, by law, that is a question that cannot be asked. However, Miller countered that, once one or all of the vaccines currently in use are approved by the Food and Drug Administration and deemed safe and effective, then he would be in favor of a vaccine mandate.
“I think (employees) need to know where this council stands and that we are not going to tolerate some silly reason about personal liberty, because we’re concerned about the safety of everyone in the community and we have that responsibility,” Miller said.
Another hot-button issue for the council has been wayfinding signs and that now has a specific date range.
Director of Planning Dannetta Clayton said Thursday that the state gave the long-awaited approval for a contract with Rite Lite Signs of Concord, North Carolina. Rite Lite’s $302,629 bid was approved by the council in late June. Now, it has a start date of Sept. 4 and will have 150 days to complete the project.
“After a very long and difficult project, I have good news. By Jan. 31, 2022, we should have signs,” Clayton said, her comments met by the applause of the council members.
“Thank you for your work,” said Councilman Jeremy Bell to Clayton.
In addition, Rogers updated the council members on paving projects, particularly some that were of great concern at the end of July. These were streets near both Murray Elementary School and Murray High School, which had the potential for being paved possibly during the time classes were in session.
That did not happen.
“I want to report to you that nine of the 16 streets were paved this week (ahead of classes starting),” he said.