Fairhope incentives increasing vaccinations

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FAIRHOPE – While Fairhope paid incentives are increasing the number of city employees getting vaccinations against COVID-19, new federal mandates requiring immunizations should not affect the municipality, officials said. About one third of city employees are fully vaccinated, Fairhope Human Resources Director Traveis Cunningham told City Council members on Monday, Sept. 13. Cunningham said the recent announcement by President Joe Biden that employers with more than 100 workers would have to require vaccinations should not affect Fairhope or other municipalities. Fairhope has more than 375 full and part-time workers, according to city reports. He said the directive was for companies subject to the regulations of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines. “A lot of that is going to follow along with OSHA guidelines, which doesn’t apply to municipalities,” Cunningham said. “So, I think we will fly under the radar on that. We’ll obviously pay attention to it as more of it rolls out.” The City Council voted in previous meetings to pay $500 to each full-time employee who was fully vaccinated by Nov. 30 against COVID-19 and $250 for each part-time worker. Cunningham said the response to the program has gone well. “I’ve seen an uptick,” Cunningham said. “We’re monitoring it. We’re tracking as department heads turn it into the HR department and I was pleasantly surprised that once we signed the incentive, the upswing and people getting the vaccination.” He said the city began paying the first incentives last week. “I would say we’re probably at about a third of our employees at this time that are vaccinated, so I think it’s a great thing,” Cunningham said. Council President Jack Burrell said he was pleased that more employees are being vaccinated but he is concerned that the city and region are lagging behind the national average. “If you look at the national numbers on vaccines, we all know Alabama is dead last in the country and Baldwin County’s numbers are low,” Burrell said. “It depends on what side of the fence you’re on, on that I guess.” Mayor Sherry Sullivan said that as many as 20 percent of Fairhope employees have been infected by COVID-19 in the last two months and some of those may not be able to receive the vaccinate. “One number too that factors into that is that since July 17, we’ve had 55 to 60 employees out with COVID,” Sullivan said. “Of those, a small handful, I would say probably five had been vaccinated. You also have to consider those people. They’re not going to let them get the shot right away. So, that’s another factor that’s playing into it.” The money for the incentives is being paid using federal funds under the American Rescue Plan, Sullivan said in a previous meeting.