Decatur is among four DeKalb County cities to require employees to get the shot or get tested. The other cities — Avondale Estates, Brookhaven and Doraville — have slightly higher vaccination rates, and all four have higher vaccination rates than Atlanta, whose leaders encourage but don’t require it. Most metro Atlanta cities do not track vaccination rates among their employees.
According to the most recent data from the county, DeKalb reported 590 cases between Oct. 28 and Nov. 10, which is about 74 cases for every 100,000 residents. In comparison, that’s slightly below the 91 cases per 100,000 that was recorded by the Georgia Department of Public Health over that time frame. DeKalb reports a countywide vaccination rate of 53% for residents.
All four DeKalb County cities that require their employees to get vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID-19 tests have higher participation rates than the City of Atlanta, which doesn't have this policy.
*Atlanta's percentage is from mid-October. The other cities provided data in mid-November.
Ellen Powell, spokeswoman for Avondale Estates, said the city saw nearly a 10% increase in employee vaccinations since their policy went into effect Aug. 10. She said the city has offered to cover the costs of testing. That hasn’t cost the city a dime so far.
“The city has said that they will reimburse for any documented cost for the testing,” Powell said. “But honestly, we haven’t received any requests for reimbursement. There haven’t been any costs affiliated with that (testing) that we have come across.”
Decatur announced it would adopt its vaccine mandate in late September, and its vaccination rate among employees also increased by nearly 10%. New hires are also required to be vaccinated.
Arnold said Decatur’s decision to bring testing to City Hall was to lessen the burden on city employees. She said American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds will pay for the testing initiative. Decatur’s allocation of ARPA funds is nearly $10.9 million.
“The cost of the city per test is relatively low,” Arnold said. “We have the economies of scale of purchasing (these tests), and also I think there is a convenience factor that employees when they’re reporting to work can also get their tests prior to their shift.”
The city is paying for rapid tests so employees will get their results back within 15 minutes. The commission approved a program budget of $75,000 for the COVID-19 tests, $25,000 for staffing costs, $20,000 for personal protective equipment and $5,000 for other supplies.
Decatur will begin requiring unvaccinated employees to get tested up to twice a week starting Dec. 2. Arnold said she hopes more city employees will decide to get the shot or will turn in their vaccination paperwork by the end of the month.
“Our goal is for as many employees as possible to get vaccinated,” Arnold said. “Clearly that is the goal within the larger goal of creating a safe workplace and ensuring that we have a safe environment and that we’re essentially doing no harm when we’re interacting with people in the community.”