988 state employees left jobs due to vaccine mandate

Another 72 are on discipline track, 97% in compliance

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

JUST FEWER than 1,000 executive branch employees have left their jobs because they did not or would not comply with Gov. Charlie Baker’s vaccine mandate for public employees, including 656 people whose departures were “involuntary,” the governor’s office said Thursday.

The update on state worker compliance with the requirement comes as Baker and his team continue to push vaccination and booster shots as the best way to defend against the persistent coronavirus. About an hour after the compliance update was released, public health officials reported yet another record-setting number of daily new COVID-19 cases — 21,137.

Of the 41,629 employees who are subject to the mandate, 40,441 of them, or just more than 97 percent, are in compliance with the mandate either because they submitted proof of vaccination by the October 17 deadline, were approved for an exemption, or had their vaccination status verified by their agency, Baker’s office said.

At the other end of the spectrum, 988 employees are no longer in their jobs due to their non-compliance with the mandate. There were 656 “involuntary resignations,” including 160 part-time contract employees from the Municipal Police Training Committee, and 332 voluntary resignations, the governor’s office reported Thursday.

Baker on August 19 signed an executive order requiring all executive branch employees to provide proof of vaccination by Oct. 17 or face disciplinary action, including possible termination.

There are another 128 executive branch workers whose compliance is considered “in progress,” including people who have pending exemption requests or who are on approved unpaid leave. And 72 employees are on what the governor’s office referred to as the “discipline track,” meaning they are currently on a five- or 10-day suspension as a result of non-compliance with the vaccine mandate.

Unvaccinated Massachusetts residents are five times more likely to become infected with COVID-19 than are fully vaccinated residents and they are 31 times more likely to get infected than fully vaccinated residents who have received a booster dose, the Department of Public Health reported earlier this month in a review of breakthrough cases.

“There are going to be a lot more cases because omicron is very contagious, but people need to understand that the vaccines and the number of people in Massachusetts that have gone out and gotten vaccinated and gotten boosted — their risk is extremely low,” Baker said in a GBH News interview last week. “It’s important for everybody to understand that vaccines and boosters are in fact doing exactly what they were supposed to do, and they are our best defense.”

DPH reported more new COVID-19 infections on Thursday than it had for any other single day in the nearly two-year-old pandemic. The 21,137 new cases bring the state’s confirmed total to 1,038,566 with another 79,345 infections considered “probable cases” of COVID-19. DPH also announced 36 recent COVID-19 deaths Thursday, raising the state’s death toll to 19,773 “confirmed” deaths and 448 “probable” COVID-19 deaths.

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There were 1,817 people hospitalized in Massachusetts for COVID-19 as of Wednesday, DPH reported on Thursday. That’s more COVID-19 patients than Bay State hospitals have seen since late January 2021. Almost 35 percent of hospitalized COVID-19 patients — 631 in total — were fully vaccinated when they contracted the virus, DPH said.

At 16.44 percent, the seven-day positive test rate for Massachusetts is at its highest reading since May 4, 2020 — more than 600 days ago.