NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — All municipal employees in the city of New Bedford will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Mayor Jon Mitchell announced Friday.

He said the decision was made in response to the rising number of local cases, noting that those who are becoming seriously ill and getting hospitalized are “overwhelmingly unvaccinated individuals.”

“We are especially vulnerable here because we have very low vaccination rates,” Mitchell said in a video posted on Twitter. “We only have about 50% of the population with its first dose.”

Since June 23, the daily rate of new cases in New Bedford has gone from an average of one or two new cases per day to an average of 38 per day over the past week, with a high of 61 cases reported on Aug. 4, according to the mayor’s office.

Mitchell said city workers may choose regular COVID-19 testing as an alternative to getting the vaccine.

The city is now discussing vaccination deadlines, testing procedures and exemptions for medical and religious reasons, he added, saying more details will be released in the near future.

The vaccine requirement does not include employees of New Bedford Public Schools or the New Bedford Port Authority.

City Councilor Brad Markey told 12 News in an interview Friday night, that he supports the decision, “I think it’s good, I’m for vaccinations, but for those people who aren’t, we also give the option to be tested, and I respect that.” said Markey, “I think we’ve come a long way from where we were a year ago. I think it’s keeping everybody safe and trying to stem this.”

Later on Friday, the city announced the vaccination site at the Andrea McCoy Recreation Center will be open every Monday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. through the month of August, with no appointment necessary. The following week, it will be open on Tuesday due to Labor Day.