If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
By Breyana Segura
An amendment to the emergency leave policy for the city of Pearsall requires employees be vaccinated for the coronavirus or they become ineligible to receive the fourteen-day break.
“This addresses the changes that have been made as we receive guidelines from CDC,” City Manager Fred Reyes said during a Tuesday, March 9, council meeting.
According to Reyes, the amendment aims to address the emergency leave policy that the council had previously approved for staff who became ill with COVID-19.
“What we are asking for, my hope is to incentivize people to get the vaccine,” the city manager said. “I am trying to be as helpful as possible and to give people incentive to get the vaccine.”
Reyes noted that if employees had medical clearance to receive the vaccine and chose not to be vaccinated, they would be ineligible for the $250 incentive.
As of the March 9 meeting, 33 city employees had received their first round of the vaccine; 28 had refused.
Councilor James Leal was quick to express his opposition to the amendment, citing what he described as a violation of civil liberties.
“In my opinion, I do not think it is right for us to be telling people [what to do,]” Leal said. “We are taking away their choice. We, as a local government, should not be telling people they need to take a vaccine. People have died or gotten seriously ill from vaccine without prior conditions.”
A previous amendment to the emergency leave policy allowed employees to have up to 14 days of paid leave contingent on a positive COVID-19 test result.
Reyes noted the incentive pay is being offered not only for public safety but for the wellbeing of the city staff.
“At the end of the day, we are trying to be safe as possible,” the city manager said. “We run the risk of not only exposing ourselves but others.”
Employees who have medical reasons not to receive the vaccine will still be eligible for the incentive, according to city staff. Those who have to wait for 90 days to become vaccinated due to a previous COVID-19 diagnosis are also eligible.
Mayor Pro Tem Julian Hernandez, who presided over the meeting in the absence of Mayor Mary Moore, questioned the legality of the amendment.
“Well legal counsel is on the call,” Reyes said. “We have had conversations with other administrations. This is a benefit to staff; some employers do not extend anything. Council member Leal is correct, there is no guarantee [the shot will work]. There is no right or wrong answer.”
According to Bobby Maldonado, legal counsel for the city, the amendment is “perfectly legal.”
The inventive pay will come from the city’s general fund.
Moore, who has missed the past three meetings, has been hospitalized due to complications from the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccination.
Leal voted against the amendment and incentive pay.