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Arlington county, school workers must get coronavirus vaccine or get regular tests

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County and public school employees in Arlington County will be required to get a coronavirus vaccine or undergo weekly testing, local officials said Thursday, making it the first local jurisdiction in Northern Virginia to implement such a mandate.

County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a statement that vaccination was “the best way to keep people safe, especially as the region sees an increasing trend of COVID-19 cases.”

Arlington, like most jurisdictions in the region, is seeing a “substantial” level of community spread of the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker, in part driven by the highly contagious delta variant.

“Our top priority continues to be the health and well-being of our employees, residents and community,” Schwartz said. “When anyone visits a County Government facility, they deserve to know that we have done everything in our power to protect them from COVID-19.”

County and public school employees will be required to submit vaccine documentation, according to a news release. Unvaccinated employees will be required to undergo free testing at least once a week. The order goes into effect Aug. 30.

Officials in the nearby city of Alexandria and Fairfax County have said they were considering such a mandate but have not implemented it yet.

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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced last week that all state employees must be vaccinated by Sept. 1 or face weekly testing, and D.C. officials have imposed a similar requirement on city staff, including teachers. Maryland’s mandate will apply only to state employees who work in congregate settings, such as prisons and hospitals.

Arlington Public Schools is the first school district in Northern Virginia to issue a vaccination mandate for its employees.

Fairfax County Public Schools is in the process of considering such a mandate, a spokeswoman said, while districts in the city of Alexandria and Loudoun County do not have requirements. A Loudoun County Public Schools spokesman said 90 percent of the school system’s employees are vaccinated.

APS Superintendent Francisco Durán said in a statement that “mandatory staff vaccinations and our universal mask requirement are two of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and are vital ways we are working to keep our schools open and safe for all.”

Tracking coronavirus deaths, cases and vaccinations in D.C., Maryland and Virginia

Bryna Helfer, Arlington County’s communications director, said that Arlington does not have data on how many county employees are vaccinated. Staff members may have received the vaccine elsewhere in the region, she said, or received priority because of their age or medical condition.

Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti (D) said he supported the vaccination mandate for county employees and would like the vaccination rate among them to be made public if possible. A small number of staff members, including employees in the county attorney’s office, are not officially covered by the mandate.

Hannah Natanson and Antonio Olivo contributed to this report.

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