Confusion continues as city approaches workers’ Covid vaccine mandate as soft launch

Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 9:42 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 19, 2021 at 10:16 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -The New Orleans fire department says it received a nice gift from the city: one thousand rapid Covid tests days before the city’s vaccine mandate went into effect.

“It’s advantageous in that sense we can test when you get off work and then be ready by the following tour,” said Aaron Mischler.

Firefighters work on 24- and 48-hour shifts, so union leader Aaron Mischler says the once-a-week testing requirements work well for their firefighters.

However, with an estimated 40 percent of the department unvaccinated, those one thousand tests will run out within a matter of weeks.

“We brought it to the city office’s attention there is a state statute, but no medical testing whatsoever cost of medical testing is to be passed onto the employee,” said Mischler.

Mischler is referring to the fair labor standards act which protects employees from paying for employer-mandated medical testing.

Some city departments like the fire department say they received tests while others like the police department say their officers were forced to pay for testing themselves.

The city’s chief administration officer, Gilbert Montano says they’re treating these first days as somewhat of a soft launch of the mandate.

“This is a brand-new process. It’s something very new across the country and there are certainly going to have learning curves,” said Montano.

Montano explained the city secured an unknown number of Covid tests through a partnership with the state health department.

He says they’re still figuring out where to locate those tests, and how to best ensure regular testing as the number of vaccinated and unvaccinated workers continues to change.

Montano says they’re essentially still figuring things out, but Mischler says the city cannot wait too long.

Montano says they’d need more information about NOPD officers paying for their own Covid tests.

He also says they’re estimating the city will need 500 tests per week in the future, and the cost of those tests in the city’s budget would be negligible.

A spokesperson with the city told us tonight they expect the city’s health department to start more widely distributing Covid tests to departments this week.

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