Mayor Adler requests COVID vaccines be mandatory for city employees

A Central Texas Allied Health Institute clinic in East Austin provides COVID-19 vaccines, but by noon on Wednesday, only about a half-dozen people had gone inside and gotten a shot. 

It's been a hard sell, according to site manager Dorneka Bills. 

"It is frustrating, because a lot of people that are scared, and the more you explain it, they're still scared, like no matter what, they're like, even if we get the vaccine, it's not saying we can’t catch COVID," said Bills.

There have been a few mobile vaccination pop ups, but Bills is now thinking a more aggressive strategy is needed. Instead of people coming to them, they should go out and find the unvaccinated.

"I feel yes, that's a good idea to go there, is it's at a HEB, a Wal-Mart, a convenience store, whatever, if we can help, to get people vaccinated, we're there," said Bills.

The status quo means one thing for Mayor Steve Adler. "It is inevitable that we will get to Stage 5," he said.

Preventing that jump in stages could involve making vaccines mandatory, according to Adler. "Yes, I think we should be talking about requiring people to get vaccinated," said Adler.

Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Adler issued a call for City Manager Spencer Cronk to require all city employees to get vaccinated. As part of that call, Adler said some exceptions to the mandate could be allowed. 

Mayor Adler also addressed why he doesn't believe a vaccination mandate violates personal rights. "In my mind, no one has a right, a right, to needlessly fill up our ICU's, no one has a right to be walking around in a way that presents risk and danger to other people in the community," he said.

On Wednesday afternoon, city officials responded to inquiries about the mayor's call, issuing the following statement:

"The Governor's Executive Order GA-35 prohibits the City from requiring vaccinations. However, the City Manager has urged staff to get vaccinated as an essential part of helping us end this pandemic. Being fully vaccinated is proven to provide the highest level of protection against COVID-19 and COVID variants."

Zack Moore, who said he has not gotten a shot, does not agree with the Mayor. "Why would I continue to listen to people who have lied to us, literally this entire time," he said.

Moore claims he is not at risk of getting sick and can’t think of anything that would make him get vaccinated. When asked if he was concerned about infecting others by remaining unvaccinated, Moore said "I'm no more worried about it, than I am worried about people vaccinated infecting other people as well."

Ramping up a vaccination outreach campaign may not be enough to give local health care providers the relief they need from the increase in hospitalizations they are seeing. A local nurse posted to social media just how serious the situation is, which was read by Mayor Adler on Tuesday during an Austin City Council work session.

"Today it blew up. Blew up is all in capital letters. The ICU is filling up with very, all in capital letters, sick unvaccinated covid patients. Still have yet to see one in the icu who is vaccinated," read the Mayor from the post.

Mayor Adler said the post was emotional for him. "Actually had me tear up, the first time that I read it. It was so heartfelt," he said.

With more than 60 new COVID-19 admissions Tuesday, according to Mayor Adler, the idea of once again converting the convention center into a overflow care facility is back on the table. "Reactivating the convention center is something that is under discussion as is all the different options that we have," said Adler.

For now the main focus is on how to convince more people to get the vaccine.

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