Leesburg Gov’t Moves Toward Vaccine Mandate

Town employees, contractors and members of Leesburg’s boards and commissions will likely need to line up for shots in arms, or they may be looking at pink slips.

Following a Monday night work session discussion, the Town Council appears poised to adopt a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for its 520 full- and part-time employees, along with contractors working in town facilities or alongside town employees or the public. Should the council carry forward its expressed wishes from Monday night, the mandate would even apply to those who are appointed to its 13 boards and commissions.

With a vote expected Tuesday evening, the council is eying a 90-day deadline for employees, contractors and board and commission members to comply with the mandate. Exemptions for religious or medical reasons will be considered by the town’s Human Resources Department, and only those exempted will be eligible for town-paid COVID-19 testing.

Council members discussed a weekly testing requirement in lieu of vaccine mandate, but cited the high projected costs as a primary reason not to provide that option. While the town staff has not been formally polled on how many have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Human Resources Director Joshua Didawick said his staff is estimating that at least 60% of the town’s workforce is, based on early indications and community vaccination rates both locally as well as where employees live. If the 60% vaccination rate is accurate, weekly COVID testing for the remaining 40% of the workforce could result in a weekly tab to the town of $21,600 to $32,400, or upwards of $100,000 monthly, Didawick said.

Allowing employees the option to seek testing on their own and provide results to the town could raise logistical challenges as well as questions of testing validity, he added.

Council members in support of the vaccine mandate pointed to others who have already enacted one, including the state and federal governments, the U.S. military, and even private companies. Several local governments, including Arlington and Fairfax counties, have also enacted vaccine mandates for its employees with an option for weekly testing. The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors enacted its own vaccine mandate last week with the option for weekly testing, but a timetable for county employee compliance has not yet been established.

Town Manager Kaj Dentler said the same conversation occurring at the council dais Monday night was one shared by local governments region-wide, even those whose elected bodies have not indicated a desire to move forward with a vaccine mandate. They all share a concern voiced by several council members Monday that a vaccine mandate could mean losing employees, he said.

Councilwoman Kari Nacy questioned what impact it could have on the town if a department lost a large number of employees who decided to leave town employ rather than get vaccinated. She also pointed to the competitive job market and higher compensation and benefits offered in neighboring jurisdictions as cause for concern.

“I firmly believe [getting vaccinated] should be a personal choice based on your own status in life,” she said.

Councilwoman Suzanne Fox also questioned the legality of such a mandate, with Town Attorney Christopher Spera pointing to both the U.S. and state Supreme Court precedent in saying a mandate would be legally defensible.

Regarding religious and medical exemptions, Didawick said considering such exemptions is an “interactive process” between his department and an employee, similar to how ADA accommodations are considered.

“We have to be consistent in our application and be able to defend any decision we make,” he said.

Fox and Nacy were the only council members not to voice support for a vaccine mandate. Fox pointed to the current Delta variant, with which a percentage of those vaccinated against COVID-19 have been getting and spreading COVID-19.

“I’m of the mind we can trust our employees as adults to make decisions and take proper precautions, or we can enact something that’s a one-size-fits-all because other people have done it,” she said.

Those who fell on the side of supporting the vaccine mandate, however, said they believed it was in the best interest of public health and safety for both employees and the general public.

“To me the most important thing that we do as a council is the public safety,” Mayor Kelly Burk said. “We have a disease that has killed over 700,000 people in the U.S. We can’t sit back and ignore it. We are sitting here in masks because of it. How irresponsible it would be for us to say we’re not going to do anything.”

A series of non-binding straw votes indicated council support for town-paid weekly testing only for those employees who receive medical or religious exemptions for not getting vaccinated, but not an option to offer the testing option in lieu of getting vaccinated for those without exemptions.

Vice Mayor Marty Martinez also indicated support for a vaccine mandate for Town Council members, though Spera acknowledged that refusing a vaccine was not a statutory basis for removing an elected official. No other council members supported that requirement.

12 thoughts on “Leesburg Gov’t Moves Toward Vaccine Mandate

  • 2021-09-28 at 12:33 pm
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    Leesburg is poised to enact a Covid mandate stricter than the county proposal. I have my reservations. But I strongly admire Mayor Burk. If she feels this is appropriate for the Town of Leesburg, who am I to object? I believe she knows the needs of her municipality better than those without such a vantage point. (Though I have a feeling the Lee family will be rolling in their graves.)

    • 2021-09-29 at 9:13 am
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      Since when is Mayor Burk a health expert? And who gives any political leader, or anyone for that sake, the wright to demand/force any type of medication on another being! It’s just plain wrong!

  • 2021-09-28 at 1:14 pm
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    This is about control, not science. Same goes for the mouth breathers at Harrison Street.

    None of these people care about you — they’ve become addicts to their control fetish. Any medical choice is between you and your Doctor.

  • 2021-09-28 at 1:34 pm
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    Rules for thee, but not for me.

    It’s the mantra of (D)s when they get into office.

  • 2021-09-28 at 2:39 pm
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    “Legally defensible” could apply to an employee who can demonstrate they already had the virus and their immune system took care of it meaning they are at least as protected from being of harm to anyone compared to someone who received the vaccine. Please don’t ignore the obvious just to make a highly partisan statement. Tax dollars should be better protected than throwing them away by losing lawsuits. 🙂

  • 2021-09-28 at 3:43 pm
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    In Loudoun they use to pinch people for less than mandating an experimental drug being forced on the public.

  • 2021-09-28 at 5:04 pm
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    The mandate is not legally defensible, but who has the money or guts to sue?
    If I were a judge, I would rule the mandate illegal. Here’s why:
    We now know the COVID vaccine is “leaky”; i.e., it does not protect the recipient from getting the virus and it does not prevent its transmission. Do you know anyone in Loudoun who is fully vaccinated and then got the virus? I do. Thus, a vaccinated person can infect you with the virus just as much as an unvaccinated person. But the unvaccinated person’s transmission is considered a “crime” (penalty–loss of livelihood) while the vaccinated person’s transmission is overlooked. Tell me that is fair!
    My ruling: Illegal mandate.
    Pfizer’s BNT 162b2 vaccine was approved under an EUA (Emergency Use Authorization) and remains under an EUA. An EUA drug cannot be mandated by law unless there is an option, like testing. Then both the unvaccinated and vaccinated would have to be tested, or we end up with the same problem as explained above. The vaccine that has been approved by the FDA, Comirnaty, is not predicted to be available for over a year. My ruling: Illegal mandate.

  • 2021-09-28 at 9:53 pm
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    A sad, sad disregard for individual freedom emanating from Leesburg politicians.

  • 2021-09-28 at 11:55 pm
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    Let those who don’t agree to get vaxed leave. If you think you know better than science and data from over millions of vaxes already given, you don’t belong in a government position. Your thinking is clearly not smart. All this junk about freedoms being taken away etc, is just silly. Since when do you know better than specialists and experts? Take the damn vax and shut up, or….or…..just get sick and die, then we don’t have to listen to your prattle.

  • 2021-09-29 at 9:21 am
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    And what if they pass this illegal mandate and loose 40% of the staff, including police force, water employees, maintenance workers etc., are they going to be able to collect unemployment? And how will the town’s leaders react when they have to do all of the grunt work… Oh that’s right , they just give orders!

  • 2021-09-29 at 1:09 pm
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    If only we could have a country wide mandate, with vaccine passports.

  • 2021-10-04 at 10:42 pm
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    Evolution is in progress and we don’t have to wait millions of years to see what happens. Those that don’t get vacinated will fade quickly into history as a statistic. As far as mandates go do you really think this imposes on your freedom? If you’re a first responder you don’t get to wear any kind of uniform, carry the firearm of your choice, etc. It’s mandatory you wear the uniforms provided.

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