PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The number of Providence police officers who have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot has risen in the last two weeks from 81% to 87% of officers, according to the city.
Mayor Jorge Elorza’s administration still won’t say exactly when they will terminate unvaccinated city workers, after he announced a policy in December that all employees would need to receive one shot by Jan. 14 or lose their job.
But his office is now giving at least one new deadline: employees who remain unvaccinated will get a written warning that they are out of compliance with the policy on Feb. 8.
“Those who remain non-compliant following the written warning will be subject to further progressive discipline, up to and including termination, on a timeline deemed appropriate by the city,” said Theresa Agonia, a spokesperson for Elorza.
The policy applies to all city workers, though the focus has been on police officers after up to 80 officers remained unvaccinated when the policy was announced.
That number has now fallen to about 57 officers. The city says 13% of the 440 applicable officers remain unvaccinated as of Monday. (The figures don’t include a small number of officers who are on leave and don’t need to comply with the policy.)
In total, 95% of all city workers under the policy now have at least one shot, according to Agonia, up from 86% in October when employees first had to submit proof of vaccination. Back then, the policy allowed unvaccinated employees to get a weekly PCR test instead.
Under the old policy, 11 city departments had 100% of their employees vaccinated. Under the new mandate, there are now 21 city departments where every employee has at least one shot.
Almost all of the remaining 14 departments managed to boost their numbers since October. The lowest vaccination rate reported by the city this week is in the Probate Court, with 80% of employees fully or partially vaccinated. (The Retirement Office previously had the lowest rate at 25%; those employees are now folded into the Controller’s Office in the new data, according to the city.)
The City Council staff is now also 100% in compliance with the vaccine mandate, according to the new data, after being among the least vaccinated departments in October. The City Council members themselves were not included in the data; Agonia said human resources had not received vaccination forms from all but one councilor.
Council spokesperson Parker Gavigan said all 15 councilors have self-reported to staff that they are vaccinated.
Elorza’s vaccine mandate has been controversial, despite its apparent effectiveness. City Council President John Igliozzi earlier this month called a special Friday night council meeting to vote to block the mass firing of police officers, but backed off the plan at the last minute and sent the proposed ordinance to committee.
While Elorza said the unvaccinated officers would not be fired immediately after the Jan. 14 deadline, he did not indicate whether it would be days, weeks or months before terminations happen.
The deadline for employees to receive their second shots is Feb. 28.
“Employees who have not yet submitted proof of vaccination have been reminded that in order to obtain long-term employment with the city, they must come into compliance with our vaccine policy,” Agonia said. “The city will be hosting a vaccine clinic on Thursday at the Public Safety Complex to support employees who need an accessible opportunity to receive their vaccine.”
Agonia said the goal is to get all employees vaccinated, not to fire them. The city did fire five Providence firefighters in December who were not in compliance with the state’s vaccine mandate for health care workers.
“The city is continuing to have productive conversations with employees, as well as offer education and vaccination opportunities,” Agonia said. “This approach is working as evidenced by the number of employees who have been vaccinated since our policy went into place.”
Below are the updated vaccination rates for each city department, according to human resources.
Steph Machado (email@example.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence, politics and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.