San Juan County Commission will consider COVID-19 policy aligning with federal standards

County employees would be required to report vaccination status by Jan. 10

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — San Juan County commissioners will meet Jan. 4 to consider a resolution that would establish a new policy regarding COVID-19 vaccinations, testing and face coverings for county employees, aligning it with federal requirements.

County spokesman Devin Neeley said the resolution would bring the county's policy in line with the emergency temporary standard adopted by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Up to this point, Neeley said, the county has not had an official policy and has been relying on recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the resolution, the federal emergency temporary standard requires employees with more than 100 workers to develop and implement a mandatory vaccination policy or a vaccination, testing and face covering policy by Jan. 10 with testing requirements beginning by Feb. 9.

Under the policy, all county employees would be required to report their vaccination status by Jan. 10 and, if vaccinated, provide proof of vaccination. Any employee who chooses to be vaccinated must be fully vaccinated by Feb. 23. Employees who choose not to be vaccinated would be subject to weekly testing, paid for by the county, and a requirement to wear a face covering in the workplace beginning Feb. 9.

More:Health agencies to host COVID-19, flu vaccination clinics in January

The policy features exemptions for religious and medical reasons.

Neeley said the commission is considering adopting the policy because it does not want to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for employees.

"That's the purpose and goal of this, through the resolution," he said.

Neeley said OSHA's emergency temporary standard has survived court challenges regarding its legality, noting he believes one such challenge is scheduled to be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court later this week.

"This is intended to create the avenue to not mandate vaccines for county employees," he said.

The resolution also contains language that empowers County Manager Mike Stark to suspend the policy if a court issues a stay against it or rules against its constitutionality, or if OSHA revokes it.

More:San Juan County COVID-19 vaccine tracker: 59% of people fully vaccinated

The policy does not apply to nonemployees of the county, including elected officials, volunteer firefighters, reserve deputies, contractors or contractor's employees, temporary agency employees, volunteers, visitors or customers.

If the policy is adopted, employees who do not comply would be subject to disciplinary action. Any employee who misrepresents his or her vaccination status could be subject to criminal penalty, according to the resolution.

The meeting will take place at 4 p.m. Jan. 4 in the commission chambers in the San Juan County Administration Building, 100 S. Oliver Drive in Aztec.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.