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In Richmond, town employees encouraged, but not required, to get COVID vaccine or test twice weekly

Richmond Town Hall exterior

Employees of the town of Richmond, excluding emergency services workers or those who work for the school, strongly are encouraged to get vaccinated for COVID-19 or to test twice weekly under a new policy adopted by the Select Board.

RICHMOND — After extensive discussions at four previous meetings, the Select Board has voted 2-1 to issue a “strong recommendation” that town employees show proof of vaccination or twice-weekly negative tests for COVID-19.

The policy also includes several requirements for any town staffers who choose not to be vaccinated.

The policy, which is not a mandate, exempts emergency services members, as suggested by Selectman Alan Hanson, who joined Chairman Neal Pilson in voting to adopt it. Selectman Roger Manzolini dissented.

Employees at the Richmond Consolidated School are exempt, since they are under the jurisdiction of the town’s School Committee.

The policy strongly recommends vaccination for town employees. But, those who choose not to get the shots or have been granted a medical or religious exemption must provide a negative COVID test every Monday and Thursday before performing work for the town or entering any town building, including Town Hall, the library and the highway garage.

For town volunteers and board members who are not defined as town employees, the policy strongly recommends vaccinations and that at any meetings or gatherings, the town’s Board of Health mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines should be observed.

Before attending meetings at town buildings, any unvaccinated employees will be required to present a negative COVID test result within the previous 72 hours.

The policy does not apply to nontown employees or members of the public who visit town buildings to attend meetings or obtain services or information, though mask-wearing and social distancing requirements need to be observed.

Employees not observing the policy might be subject to disciplinary action. The recommendations will be reviewed by the Select Board every six months.

In his dissent, Manzolini cited data that he said “shows that we’re in the waning phases of this pandemic.” He pointed out that the town went through the “worst phases” without a vaccination policy.

Manzolini, restating his strong opposition to the proposed recommendations, contended that the policy “is creating more of a problem and it’s not addressing anything. It’s causing us more issues.”

Board of Health Chairman Andrew Fisher described many of Manzolini’s claims as incorrect.

“This is not an epidemic that is going away,” he declared. “It is an epidemic of the unvaccinated, and breakthrough cases that are happening more and more.”

Fisher described the revised policy, previously proposed as a mandate, as “a good compromise.”

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter

@BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.

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