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Boston City Council plans to press mayor's office on vaccine mandates

Boston City Hall. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Boston City Hall. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The Boston City Council plans to hold a hearing Friday to scrutinize Boston Mayor Michelle Wu's mandate that workers be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Former Mayor Kim Janey previously worked out a deal with unions to give employees the option of either getting vaccinated or submitting weekly test results. After Wu took office last fall, however, she removed the testing option and said workers must be vaccinated unless they qualify for an exemption.

City Councilor Erin Murphy, who called for the hearing, said the council can't get involved in negotiations with unions or overrule the mandate, but it can ask for more information about why the Wu administration thought the strict mandate was necessary and whether it is still needed.

"What public health metrics were we using then ... and were they the same public health metrics when you thought testing was safe?" she said she plans to ask city health officials.

Wu recently said she plans to use a number of measures, including hospitalizations and the city's positivity rate, to decide when to ease certain citywide COVID  restrictions, such as a requirement to show proof of vaccination to enter indoor venues like restaurants and gyms.

In addition, the city worked out a deal with Boston Teachers Union to allow  unvaccinated educators to work when COVID numbers are low and use accrued paid time off when numbers spike.

The city is still negotiating with public safety unions over the mandate, which is on hold while an appellate court reviews a lawsuit filed by three of the four police and fire unions.

Murphy said the city council also wanted to give the city an opportunity to publicly explain its reasoning behind the vaccine rules.

"I wanted those affected by the mandate, who felt like their voices weren't being heard, to give them a platform to be heard," she said. "That they could, for lack of a better term, have their day in court [and] set the record straight."

Boston public health officials, union reps and leaders in the hotel, restaurant and entertainment industry are invited to attend.

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Ally Jarmanning Twitter Senior Reporter
Ally is a senior reporter focused on criminal justice and police accountability.

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