Montgomery Co. Council, Executive clash over vaccine mandates for county employees

Maryland

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) — With just 78% of Montgomery County employees self-reporting as vaccinated against COVID-19, both the Montgomery County Council and the County Executive agree something needs to be done to prevent the spread of the virus among those who work for the county.

What they don’t agree on is how to go about doing it. County Executive Marc Elrich said no vaccine mandate is necessary, while several members of the council are pushing full speed ahead on that vaccine mandate.

“I get very frustrated and I’ve just had it with people who are holding out for god knows what reason,” said Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz on Tuesday.

He’s on board with expedited legislation to mandate vaccines for county employees. So far, 5% of county employees have said they aren’t vaccinated, while 17% haven’t reported their status.

“Through some combination of fear, stubbornness, misinformation, political ideology or just plain laziness, they have not yet decided to sign up for a vaccination whose efficacy is unquestioned at this point,” said Albornoz.

Councilmember Will Jawando cited low vaccination and reporting rates among county Fire and Rescue Services employees as a big reason behind the proposed mandate, with just under 63% of them reporting as vaccinated, 5% reporting as unvaccinated and over 30% have not reported their status at all.

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation falls in last place among county departments, just a tenth of a percent behind MCFRS for their percentage of vaccinated employees.

Meanwhile, County Executive Elrich says a mandate is not the solution, and that a mandate could lead to more problems. His plan allowed an opt-out for employees to be tested regularly, but the council’s plan doesn’t.

“We are working with the labor groups, we are reaching out directly to those who haven’t reported or got vaccinated. We’re gonna move everyone toward getting vaccinated,” Elrich said in a media briefing Wednesday.

There’s a public hearing on the proposed vaccine mandate for county employees in mid-October. If the council and executive don’t decide on a different plan before then, that’s the soonest day the council could take action to vote on the mandate. The county executive can veto it if they decide to enact the mandate.

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