In Philadelphia, city office employees are still working from home when possible.
The new policy in New York, which will be rolled out in phases over several weeks, will affect about 80,000 employees who have been working remotely, including caseworkers, computer specialists and clerical associates. The rest of the city’s roughly 300,000-person work force, many of them uniformed personnel including police officers, firefighters and sanitation workers, have already been reporting to work sites.
Vaccination will not be mandatory for those returning to the office because of legal concerns, according to a City Hall spokesman. City officials are strongly encouraging their workers to get vaccinated and are trying to facilitate that process. Even so, a survey of the city work force in January suggested that vaccine hesitancy varied significantly by agency, and City Hall was unable to provide an estimate of how many municipal workers had already received vaccines.
Facial masks will also be strongly encouraged but not required in all workplace situations: A March 18 presentation from the city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services said agency leaders should “encourage face coverings to be worn at all times even if six-feet distancing can be maintained.” On Tuesday, deputy mayor Laura Anglin clarified the policy, saying that if employees cannot socially distance, they must wear masks.
Henry Garrido, executive director of the city’s largest municipal labor union, District Council 37, expressed particular concern about his members who work in densely packed call centers as well as those in social services offices, where interactions with maskless clients can be common. All city workers who deal directly with the public are currently eligible for vaccination, regardless of age.
About 200 D.C. 37 members have died from the coronavirus, a result of what Mr. Garrido described as “foggy, unclear” public health guidelines early in the pandemic, a lack of protective equipment and inconsistent city and state policies.
“We don’t want to repeat those mistakes,” Mr. Garrido said. “I want to make sure that those offices are absolutely ready for workers to come back.”