Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss and city staff on October 18 announced a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, giving city employees until November 15 to be fully vaccinated.
The policy applies to all city staff, including seasonal and part-time workers, contractors, volunteers and interns.
“Getting vaccinated is the single most important action we can take to protect ourselves, our families, our coworkers, and our community from COVID-19,” the mayor announced at the time.
Since the announcement, officials have secured memorandums of understanding with the city’s three major employees groups – police officers, firefighters and public works employees – pledging to come into compliance.
But what about City Council members, who are not covered under the city’s mandatory vaccination policy?
The council as a group has been holding in-person meetings for several months now. As a result, they often come into close contact with staff, community members and each other.
Are they vaccinated? What is their opinion on mandatory vaccinations?
- City Clerk Stephanie Mendoza, Biss and seven of the other 10 council members have responded to emails and in some cases follow-up calls and texts from the Evanston RoundTable, confirming they had been vaccinated, receiving both shots.
- Two Council members, Bobby Burns, 5th Ward, and Devon Reid, 8th Ward, have not responded to emails, text messages or follow-up calls attempting to verify their vaccination status.
In responding to the survey, a number of council members stressed the importance of vaccination.
- Second Ward Council member Peter Braithwaite: “I think it’s important we lead by example.”
- Third Ward Council member Melissa Wynne: “I agree with the mandatory COVID vaccine policy. I think it should apply to the City Council as well. We are all in this together. We all need to protect ourselves and our neighbors.”
- Fourth Ward Council member Jonathan Nieuwsma: “I’ve been vaccinated since shortly after I became eligible. My father-in-law, who lives with us, is in a high-risk category, so my wife and I qualified as caregivers a few weeks before we would have otherwise been eligible.”
- Ninth Ward Council member Cicely Fleming: “We’re supposed to set an example for other people. And our staff should have done this long ago as well. We [city offices] still have not opened. The schools are open, everyone else is open. I don’t think we’re setting a great example.”
In announcing a mandatory vaccination policy last month, officials referred to President Joe Biden’s September 21 COVID-19 Action Plan, requiring all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated or tested on a weekly basis.
Following the President’s order, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration implemented the requirement November 4.
Based on reports the Evanston Health and Human Services Department had received, approximately 82% of the city’s staff had been vaccinated at the time of the city’s October 18 announcement of its policy and deadline. Options were to be granted for certain medical or religious reasons.
The policy also made an exception for any employee whose personal preference was to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing in lieu of being vaccinated.
“EHHS has the ability to identify staff members who fail to comply after all attempts, and efforts have been made to achieve compliance,” the city’s mandatory vaccination policy stated. “Violations of this policy or associated procedures may result in a reprimand, appropriate disciplinary measures and up to and including termination.”