RICHMOND — Town leaders have crafted, but not yet adopted, a proposed COVID-19 vaccination policy for town employees, including anyone who is paid for providing services to the community — excluding Richmond Consolidated School staffers.
What’s at stake: The draft proposal states that all town employees must be vaccinated within 21 days of the policy’s adoption. Anyone granted an exemption for medical or religious reasons must provide a negative COVID test every week. Employees choosing not to follow the policies could be subject to disciplinary action, according to the draft.
Why it matters: Board of Health Chairman Andrew Fisher said the policy would send a powerful message. “We would be the first town in the Berkshires that comes near a policy with potential punitive action,” he stated. “We might see other towns in the Berkshires and elsewhere in the state do so. To the extent that we can show an example of how a small town should act, it’s extremely important.”
What they’re saying:
• “If we’re ever going to get this under any kind of control, this needs to be done,” resident Holly Stover stressed. “We need to protect our children until they can be vaccinated.”
• But, said Selectman Alan Hanson, “I do not believe the Select Board has the ultimate authority to impose medical mandates, because we have a town meeting form of government, government by committee. If there are mandates, the standing committees or chairs should vote yes or no.”
• And Selectman Roger Manzolini declared that “my understanding of government is to secure rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. It’s an overreach to mandate health choices for individuals; it’s a violation of their personal liberties. Disciplinary action is an overreach to place that kind of burden on our employees.”
What’s next: A potential vote was put off until the next meeting so the town’s committee chairs can discuss it with their members.