First published in the Dec. 11 print issue of the Glendale News Press.
City Council members this week took exception to a request for $250,000 to fund weekly testing for city employees who remain unvaccinated against COVID-19.
Although the council ultimately approved the request — legally, they are required to pay for testing if they require it — they weren’t thrilled about it. Since the city’s employee vaccination policy took effect in November, human resources officials have determined that at least 75% of Glendale’s approximately 1,900 full- and part-time employees have attained full vaccination against COVID-19. The remaining 25%, around 400 employees, have either not reported their status or are unvaccinated.
Per policy, those 400 are required to be tested for coronavirus infection each week. However, according to Human Resource Director Matt Doyle, just half of them are doing so.
“We don’t have a lot of data, but it’s been about 200 per week and that largely does not include our police department employees,” Doyle told the council on Tuesday.
Currently, the city has three testing sites at the public works building, Glendale Water and Power and City Hall. Applicable employees are to be tested when arriving for shifts. The trouble arises, Doyle explained, with employees who work irregular shifts.
“We have the testing that has begun mainly for City Hall and staff that have regular schedules, but we’ve had some real logistical problems with the police department and we’re still working on those,” he said, adding that it’s usually an issue with weekend or graveyard shifts. “It’s a huge expenditure of our time and we’re not where we want to be, but we’re still working on it.”
Doyle said a solution being considered was a self-administered test, which is less expensive than the typical one.
Even if a solution is reached, some council members remained frustrated that such a contingent of employees would opt for testing instead, at the city’s dime.
“I definitely did notice the expenditure of $250,000. It doesn’t sit that well with me that our taxpayers are having to spend money on tests for people that won’t get vaccinated,” Councilman Dan Brotman said. “I continue to have real concerns with this strategy of making it optional and having a choice to not get vaccinated and get [instead] tested.”
Mayor Paula Devine wondered whether it would be simpler to establish a time period on, say, Monday each week for employees to come in and take their tests all at once, as opposed to “bending over backwards and trying to get testing there for everybody at every hour of the day.” The trade-off there, according to City Attorney Mike Garcia, is that employees not otherwise working that day would have to be paid for coming in to test.
“We’re using the taxpayers’ money for this, and not only are we doing that, we’re also making it difficult to get to everyone because we’re saying, ‘Oh, whenever you come in, we’ll have someone here for you,’” a frustrated Devine recapped. “There has to be a better way.”