CLEVELAND — In many cases, unvaccinated Cuyahoga County employees will be required to take a weekly COVID-19 test starting on January 31, and submit the test to their supervisor or face progressive discipline or possible loss of employment.
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish said the change in county policy is in response to growing COVID-19 cases and to better protect county employees and the public from the virus.
Budish said Cuyahoga County will be providing free test kits to employees that they can take home or use during their work shifts.
“Everybody should be vaccinated; I don’t understand why people won’t get vaccinated," Budish said. “We are requiring people to take the test weekly if they are not vaccinated, and only if they are not vaccinated.”
“We are I think number three in the United States right now in Cuyahoga County. It’s unbelievable how bad it is with COVID. We are sending out the test kits and will make them available to people for free.”
Budish told News 5 Cuyahoga County could soon require all employees to be vaccinated in response to growing COVID-19 cases.
“We are considering it, we’re hoping that we don’t have to do that, we’re hoping that enough people will get vaccinated with this new process that we’re putting into place," Budish said.
Bert Vojtkofsky is a Cuyahoga County employee, who works at county headquarters, who agrees with weekly testing for unvaccinated county workers.
“I think it is a good idea because I know several people who are unvaccinated in the workplace and it does make me feel somewhat uncomfortable," Vojtkofsky said. “It’s not that much to ask, the county is going to provide the test. There’s nothing out of pocket, and if that’s their choice, I think it’s a small price to pay versus not being able to come back to work at all.”
However, not all unvaccinated Cuyahoga County workers agree with the weekly COVID-19 testing requirement, and call it "unfair" and "invasive."
One woman, who didn't want to be identified, who comes in contact with Cuyahoga County workers told News 5 the COVID testing requirement should be extended to all county workers if the county was truly interested in protecting employees and the public.
“I think it’s a lot it’s a lot invasive, every week, that’s a lot of time out of your schedule," the unidentified woman said. “If they are vaccinated, you still get COVID right, so shouldn’t they get tested also?”
“I think weekly is a bit much, and I think they should make everybody do it. If you can still catch COVID with the vaccine, then you should also be tested."
Cuyahoga County issued the following COVID-19 testing policy information in response to our story:
"Employees who have been fully vaccinated and have provided proof of vaccination will not be required to participate in the COVID-19 employee testing program. A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after completion of a two-dose series such as Pfizer- BioNTech or Moderna, or two weeks after a single dose of the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Proof of Vaccination can be submitted through MYHR. Additional instructions on submission will be provided. The County recommends those eligible for a booster receive it as soon as possible.
Unvaccinated employees are required to submit proof of a negative COVID-19 test once a week. Tests must be submitted each week no later than end of day on Thursday, commencing Thursday, February 3, 2022. If Thursday is a holiday, test results must be submitted no later than end of day on Wednesday. Testing will be completed during the employees’ regularly scheduled workday.
Weekly test results must be submitted electronically. Additional details will be provided in subsequent communications, and prior to the commencement of the testing requirement date.
Employees who test positive must notify their supervisor and Human Resources manager, and then leave the office immediately. Employee paid leave and return-to-work must be consistent with current County policy.
Employees who are telecommuting or on extended leave are not required to participate in the COVID-19 testing program if they neither enter a County building at any time nor come into contact with the public as part of their work responsibilities.
Cuyahoga County will provide COVID-19 self-service testing kits to employees beginning on Monday, January 31st. Employees will complete weekly testing at work during their regularly scheduled workday and will be required to begin electronically submitting their test results no later than Thursday, February 3rd. There will be self-service instructions provided and someone to assist employees with questions for the first time if needed.
The County will be utilizing the On/Go COVID-19 antigen self-test. The On/Go COVID-19 test is a portable, reliable, self-administered rapid antigen test, able to deliver the results in ten minutes: https://www.letsongo.com/. Employees will be able to provide the test results electronically through a guided mobile application. If employees do not have this capability, an alternative for submission will be provided.
Additionally, on-site testing will be provided for Sheriff Correction staff. Individuals will be available at the Justice Center to assist employees through the process.
Employees may choose to schedule their own test, and not use the self-service testing kit provided by the County. Test results must be provided to your HR manager no later than Thursday of each week, starting Thursday, February 3, 2022. Acceptable tests include proctored antigen or PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests or tests administered by a pharmacy or qualified healthcare professional. If employees elect to schedule their own test, they will not be paid for time used to take the test. However, employees may be reimbursed for the cost of the test, or the test may be covered through the employees’ health plan.
Employees who have begun the vaccination process (having one shot if two are required) will be required to submit weekly tests results until they provide proof of full vaccination to their HR manager.
For the safety of the public and our County workforce, any unvaccinated employee who fails to submit a test result by 4 p.m. of Thursday of each week will not be permitted to return to work until the employee produces evidence of a negative test. Such employees will be permitted a reasonable amount of time to comply with this requirement, not to exceed one (1) working day. During the time allotted, employees may use applicable leave in accordance with the Employee Handbook or applicable collective bargaining agreement, or, if the employee is without applicable paid time in their banks, the employee will be placed in an unpaid leave status. Unvaccinated employees who fail to submit proof of a negative Covid-19 test, are not eligible for the Paid Emergency Administrative Leave provided by Cuyahoga County Ordinance O2021-0017 unless and until they provide proof that they have tested positive for Covid-19.
If an employee fails to produce their Covid-19 test result within the reasonable time allotted, the employee will be considered absent without an approved leave pursuant to the Employee Handbook or the applicable attendance control policy set forth in a collective bargaining agreement. If an employee produces a positive Covid-19 test result within the reasonable time allotted or thereafter, employees must follow the County’s Protocol for Confirmed/Positive COVID-19 Test Results.
Unvaccinated employees who do not comply with the COVID-19 Testing Policy may be subject to progressive discipline pursuant to their applicable collective bargaining agreement, applicable attendance control policy, the Cuyahoga County Employee Handbook, and/or any other applicable policy. Examples of actions subject to discipline include, but are not limited to, failing to provide a test result, providing falsified and forged results, and failing to provide results in a timely manner.
Disciplinary actions will not begin until thirty (30) days after the commencement of the program, i.e., March 2, 2022 . This allows employees time to adjust to this new program."