Mayor Michelle Wu said no Boston businesses have been fined yet over the vaccine mandate, and she suggested a continued downward trend in cases could mean changes to the policy.
“The hope is that we will continue seeing progress with our vaccination rates going up, and that will mean that we should be able to adjust our policies down the line,” Wu told reporters on Tuesday when asked about what it would take to do away with the rule that restaurants and other venues require people show proof of vaccination against coronavirus.
Both halves of Wu’s raft of mandates continue in effect without enforcement but with controversy, as she answers questions about when the proof-of-vax requirement for businesses might go down the road, and the rule around whether city workers have to get the jab faces a test as an administration-negotiated union agreement is in jeopardy of failing a vote on Wednesday.
Wu, speaking on the business mandate, added that there are “a number of factors” the city’s looking at when considering scaling the requirements back, including positive COVID-19 test rates citywide.
Wu said that the proof-of-vax requirements for city businesses is, like the other half of the mandate requiring municipal workers to get the jab, still not being enforced a week and a half after it went into effect.
“As of this point, we’re still in an education phase, and so we’ve been going out and having conversations with businesses ensuring that the signs are up and that the processes are in place,” Wu said when asked if the city had come down on any businesses that weren’t requiring proof of vaccination. “But there haven’t been fines assessed yet.”
Asked if there’s a plan for that “education phase” to move to an enforcement phase, she said, “Yes,” though asked when that might be, she said, “There’s not a set date at this point.”
The order creating the mandate for businesses threatens a $300 fine or hearings before the license board. The city handled its original slate of COVID-19 restrictions on businesses — closures and occupancy caps during the teeth of the pandemic in 2020 — through special license board hearings.
Wu has continued to face protests over this mandate and the arguably higher-profile half of the city’s raft of requirements: the rule that all city workers must be vaccinated.
Wednesday will bring a major test on that front — a vote by the members of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association over whether the city’s largest cop union will accept the deal its leaders have hashed out with Wu.
The deal, according to a copy obtained by the Herald, would grant the 1,600-or-so patrolmen two one-off “Mental Health and Wellness” days this year. The proposed agreement, which was first reported in an earlier iteration by Politico, involves the BPPA acceding to the mandate but reserving the right to bargain further if the city looks to require booster shots. It also would include some protections for employees who are fired or quit because of the mandate but then later come into compliance.
But there’s significant pushback from within the union against the agreement — so much so that it’s unclear whether it will pass, and to the extent that a group of emergency responders that includes some patrolmen will be outside the BPPA’s Dorchester union hall, where the voting will be open all day agitating against the proposed agreement.
A union source said the anticipated appeal by the labor groups representing firefighters, police superior officers and detectives of a judge’s decision to allow the mandate will go ahead also is due to be filed Wednesday morning.