Unvaccinated Boston Teachers Must Get Tested Twice A Week Under New Agreement — If Virus Thresholds Are Low Enough

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2022/02/10/unvaccinated-boston-teachers-must-get-tested-twice-a-week-under-new-agreement-if-virus-thresholds-are-low-enough/

Unvaccinated public school teachers in Boston will have to submit two negative coronavirus tests per week to keep working under an agreement the teachers union made with the city’s mayor Wednesday night.

The two negative tests are acceptable only “during periods of lower virus transmission.”

“During periods of higher virus transmission, unvaccinated members will not be allowed in school buildings, but may use some accrued time as an alternative to being placed on unpaid administrative leave,” the mayor’s office said in a written statement Thursday.

Wu said during a press conference Thursday that the twice-weekly testing of unvaccinated teachers is “to make sure that we are still keeping our classrooms fully safe.”

About 5 percent of Boston public school teachers are unvaccinated, Wu said Thursday.

An unvaccinated Boston teacher who spoke with NewBostonPost on Wednesday night said the agreement and vote took union members resisting the vaccine mandate by surprise.

A tentative agenda sent out by the Boston Teachers’ Union made no mention of an agreement. Instead, the agenda stated that Mayor Michelle Wu would be a guest speaker and that an estimated 15 minutes would be devoted to “Update on impact bargaining on the vaccine mandate.”



An email newsletter sent out to union members before the meeting suggested that “any updates” on talks concerning the vaccine would be presented during the meeting:



The mayor’s written statement Thursday said that 84 percent of union members who voted on the agreement approved it. But the union member who spoke with NewBostonPost reported being unable to get access to the online meeting and said other union members were likewise unable to get in.

A union email newsletter notifying members of the meeting said that all union members who wanted to attend had to register at least an hour in advance:



As of 5 p.m. Thursday, a Boston Teachers Union spokesman had not responded to an inquiry from NewBostonPost made Wednesday night.

The Memorandum of Agreement between the city and the Boston Teachers’ Union lays out a tiered system to determine if unvaccinated employees who don’t have a medical or physical exemption can work inside the school buildings.

The highest-alert is Red Zone, which refers to a situation where at least 90 percent of intensive care beds in the city’s hospitals are filled, hospitalizations per day reach 150 or greater, and the community positivity rate is at least 4 percent.

“During any Red Zone Non-Verified Employees must either submit proof of vaccination into the City’s online portal or will be placed on unpaid administrative leave and not allowed in the workplace,” the agreement states.

The city of Boston’s current coronavirus threshold numbers put it in the Red Zone or at least near it.

The city of Boston’s test positivity level as of Monday, February 7 was 6.9 percent, which is above the city’s goal of 4 percent. About 89.6 percent of non-surge intensive care beds were occupied as of Monday, February 7; that’s fractionally less than the 90 percent mark set for the Red Zone. The average hospitalizations per day as of Wednesday, February 9 was 362.9; that’s well above the Red Zone level of 150.

Unvaccinated employees during a Red Zone period can use vacation time, compensatory time, or personal time to avoid being put on unpaid administrative leave. The agreement says the unpaid administrative leave “is not disciplinary” and that “No member will be subject to discipline for not being vaccinated against COVID-19.”

The city agrees to continue playing the employer’s portion of the employees’ health insurance premiums while such employees are on unpaid administrative leave.

During a so-called Yellow Zone period, in which threshold numbers are lowered but city officials are still requiring masks indoors, unvaccinated teachers can work in school buildings if they submit two negative test results a week.

During a Green Zone period, which is when face masks are not required indoors in the city, unvaccinated teachers won’t have to submit test results to work in school buildings.

The agreement also provides that all employees hired after December 20, 2021 – the date Wu announced the vaccine mandate – must be vaccinated against coronavirus.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu addressed the agreement toward the tail end of a press conference Thursday, February 10.

She said she is “very grateful” that the teachers union ratified the agreement.

In a press release issued by the mayor’s office Thursday, February 10, the union issued the following statement:  “We are glad to have reached an agreement with the district that will uplift the health and safety of our educators, students, and communities, while still being able to retain our educators who have chosen to remain unvaccinated. The agreement takes important steps to promote public health and to mitigate classroom staffing disruptions.”

Screenshot images of the Memorandum of Agreement are below.






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