CINCINNATI — The city of Cincinnati is giving its employees five more weeks to get the COVID-19 vaccine or submit regular negative COVID-19 tests as the city continues negotiations with groups like the Fraternal Order of Police.
The deadline to be fully vaccinated or submit regular testing was initially set for Tuesday. It also would have demanded weekly testing, but union leaders were informed that the requirement would be shifted to bi-weekly with a possibility for a weekly testing exemption based on any inabilities to test.
"It makes a little difference. We're still heading down a direction many employees feel is just extremely overbearing by an employer," said Sgt. Dan Hils, president of the Cincinnati FOP. "That they're interfering or invading their own medical choices and decisions."
Hils said he doesn't believe much more will change with the city's policy over the next five weeks, but warned the policy would have consequences in the form of people leaving.
"I believe this is an administrative nightmare and the city is realizing what a nightmare it is," he said.
Employers throughout the Greater Cincinnati region have implemented some form of a vaccine or testing requirement. The city will be the largest employer in the region to enforce such a requirement, when the mandate finally begins.
The requirements have sparked protests, walkouts and contributed to staffing shortages as some choose to leave their place of employment rather than get the COVID-19 vaccine.
"Half our employees are probably applauding us," said Dr. Robert Prichard, CEO of St. Elizabeth Physicians. "And half are probably booing us."
Six different Tri-State hospitals announced a mandate in August. St. Elizabeth, UC Health and Cincinnati Children's all have a deadline for compliance of Oct. 1. A federal judge in Kentucky will hear arguments Wednesday to temporarily pause the enforcement of the mandate and any termination of unvaccinated staff.
"We all find this important for both the safety of our patients, safety of our associates and the health of our community," said Prichard.