GOSHEN — Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman wants public and private employers to encourage their workers to get vaccinated.
Stutsman spoke Thursday during a press conference at the mobile vaccination clinic, which is open through Saturday at Goshen High School. He urged business owners to help themselves, their employees and the community by making it easier to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The health of our community is directly related to the health and sustainability of our economy,” he said. “Consider giving your employees a couple of hours off in the next couple of days to come down here and get vaccinated. You’re going to be money ahead, having your employees take a couple of hours off – I would suggest paid, if it was me – (rather) than having them get sick in the future and not having that employee at work for possibly a couple of weeks or more.”
During Tuesday’s Common Council meeting, he proposed an incentive to give an extra paid day off to Goshen city employees who get fully vaccinated by July 23. In August, employees in each department that has a vaccination rate of over 80 percent will receive a second personal day.
“This creates a little bit of peer pressure, but also another challenge within the departments to step up and help us do what we need to do,” he told council. “There’s a lot of misinformation about the vaccines out there, so we will make sure that our staff has the right sources on what these vaccines are doing, how successful they are and what that means if you get it.”
Council passed the measure on both readings.
Vaccines won’t be mandated for city staff and those who refuse to be vaccinated won’t lose anything, Stutsman said. Employees who have a medical reason preventing them from getting vaccinated are also eligible for the day off and won’t count against their department’s percentage.
Council President Brett Weddell, who contracted COVID-19 and later got the vaccine, said he understands why someone would be hesitant to get the shot.
“I know there’s a lot of people who don’t trust the vaccination because it came so fast, there’s not a lot of research behind it. It does appear in my opinion, for myself, for my family, it’s safe,” he said. “But there’s others who hold a different opinion and I think they have every right to that opinion, and I certainly don’t want to look down on anyone who has that opinion.”
He also wanted to make sure that staff members could go out and get vaccinated on city time, which Stutsman confirmed.
Stutsman said current vaccination rates vary widely by departments, with some currently around 25-30 percent. He hopes incentives like this will help push the inoculation rate among the departments altogether as close to 80 percent as possible.
Achieving a high vaccination rate would help limit the amount of sick time taken by city employees as well as overtime pay for those covering for them, and help provide better service to residents, he said.
The 80 percent goal is based on information from the Elkhart County Health Department and Dr. Dan Nafziger, an infectious disease specialist with Goshen Health, as well as watching what the state and other counties are doing and reading CDC standards as they come out.
“We’re trying to figure out those things we should still be doing,” Stutsman said. “One thing that we are all hearing consistently from all sources, is the more people that get vaccinated, the better we are.”