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Falls Church City, schools will require COVID-19 vaccine for staff

Falls Church City Hall Harry E. Wells Building sign (via City of Falls Church Government/Facebook)

The City of Falls Church will require its employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo regular testing, the city announced this morning (Wednesday).

The policy will take effect on Sept. 30, meaning all employees will need to have gotten both shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine on or by that date, Falls Church City communications director Susan Finarelli told Tysons Reporter.

She confirmed that the requirement will apply to the city’s 200 full-time employees as well as part-time and contract workers.

The mandate puts the city in line with Fairfax County’s government and public schools, which both announced on Friday (Aug. 20) that they will have a vaccine requirement for their workers.

“The vaccines are safe, effective, and they save lives,” Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields said in a statement. “We join many other Northern Virginia jurisdictions, school systems, companies, and organizations in this important step toward ending this pandemic.”

A testing requirement will be in place for anyone who doesn’t get vaccinated, including employees who request a medical or religious exemption, according to the news release, which notes that the Falls Church City Council has expressed support for a vaccine mandate in recent meetings.

Finarelli says many details of the new policy are still being worked out, including what provider the city will use for testing services.

Falls Church typically relies on the Fairfax County Health Department for health-related services, including COVID-19 vaccination clinics like the public, walk-in site that will be available at the 45th annual Falls Church Festival from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 11.

“We are consulting with Fairfax Health — the City’s health department — on this, as well as exploring other options for the testing requirement,” Finarelli said. “We are still working on the details and a final plan.”

Falls Church City Public Schools says it will also require all employees to get vaccinated going forward unless they have a medical or religious exemption, in which case they will submit to mandatory testing paid for by the school division.

“The number of our employees who report as vaccinated exceeds 98%, which we attribute to the high participation in our vaccination clinics and the collective commitment of our staff to health/safety,” FCCPS communications director John Wesley Brett said by email. “With the Pfizer vaccine having full FDA approval for 16+-year-olds, we are confident that is one less concern if that was a barrier for someone hesitating to be vaccinated.”

Falls Church City has been seeing a moderate level of community transmission since the beginning of August after keeping transmission levels low throughout the summer. It’s one of just two localities in Virginia left in the moderate category, along with Manassas Park, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Superintendent Peter Noonan said during a virtual town hall on Monday (Aug. 23) that the rise of transmission “gives us pause,” but FCCPS didn’t have any confirmed positive COVID-19 cases during its summer school and extended school year programs.

“We’re very proud of that not just as a school system, but as a community, as a whole, because it means the mitigation strategies that we’re putting in place are actually working,” he said.

Photo via City of Falls Church Government/Facebook

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