ENFIELD, N.Y.—The Town of Enfield Board rejected a resolution last week that would have instituted a soft vaccination mandate for town employees, with the option for a testing requirement for people who are unvaccinated.

The measure, introduced by Board member Bob Lynch, failed 3-1. It would have given 60 days for town employees to receive their COVID-19 vaccination, and included language geared at requiring employees to receive a booster shot within six months, if recommended by state or local health officials. An accompanying mask mandate resolution, which would call for masks to be worn at all times for anyone in a town building regardless of vaccination status, was tabled until October.

Tompkins County employees are being held to a similar standard as the one that Lynch had proposed, though he said that the county’s testing frequency was unnecessary for Enfield employees. The policy would have allowed for religious and medical exemptions, as well as “those unwilling to be vaccinated,” but they all would have had to go through regular testing.

“I’ve tried to pattern this from information that I’ve been able to glean from Tompkins County,” Lynch said during the board’s discussion. “The county is doing twice-weekly testing, I don’t think that’s necessary. I would think that once-weekly testing would be appropriate, maybe you want to change that.”

“Maybe people want to trim it around the edges, maybe people don’t want it at all,” Lynch said. “It’s my best effort at a compromise that keeps people in the community safe, keeps our workforce safe, and still allows the option for people to opt out if they choose to or if they need to.”

Town Supervisor Stephanie Redmond mentioned that there is at least one town employee who is not receiving the vaccination because of “medical reasons,” and she felt uncomfortable making that employee receive weekly testing.

“For someone who’s already having a medical situation, I don’t want to put them through that, I don’t feel comfortable with that,” Redmond said.

She then said that a vaccine mandate is “pointless” because vaccinated people can still pass coronavirus—though it should be noted that the CDC and other public health officials locally and nationally have insisted that vaccinations do lower the chance of transmission, particularly the length of time during which someone is infectious.

“Slightly, potentially you have more of a chance of spreading it if you’re unvaccinated,” Redmond said. “But let’s not pretend that just because we’re vaccinated we can’t spread it. And so I feel if we’re going to do surveillance testing, it should be for the vaccinated as well as for the unvaccinated, because we can give it to other people.”

Arguing in favor of the resolution, Lynch said the town should also consider that the company which provides healthcare for town employees could say that if the workforce isn’t fully vaccinated, the town would face higher rates (Lynch was speculating here, as it doesn’t sound like that specific threat has been made). Redmond acknowledged the possibility and said if that’s the case, she would be amenable to considering the vaccination mandate again at that point, but until then she would be voting against it.

“A reasonable mask mandate is probably preferable, in my mind,” board member Jude Lemke said, referring to the aforementioned mask mandate that was introduced by Redmond and eventually pushed until next month.

Lynch pushed back, saying that vaccinations are more effective than masks, which Lemke agreed with.

“Maybe, to a certain extent, we’re being a nanny here,” Lynch said. “A person at the last meeting said very sincerely, ‘People have to protect themselves—you can’t protect them.’ Well, yes, maybe we can help protect them, and maybe we should. Maybe we should look out for our employees because they’re good people. And maybe we should give a little nudge, and this might do it.”

A few days after the meeting, Lynch did say that he would be reintroducing the resolution in light of President Joe Biden’s announcement last week that all federal employees must either be vaccinated or submit to a testing regimen. That will likely happen at the next Town Board meeting.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com