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City in need of COVID leave policy

By Meg Dickens
Freelance Writer

Since the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, people have been subjected to various changes. Virtual meetings and learning became more commonplace, and safety precautions popped up in rural and urban areas alike. One discussion that has been raging through organizations and agencies worldwide has been Covid leave. The Mountain City Council is now deciding how to proceed.
“It’s getting so out of hand right now, and with everybody out of work, we can’t continue to pay them, and Covid’s not going anywhere,” City Recorder Sheila Shaw explained when breaching the subject. “We keep getting it and keep getting it. We either approve some type of Covid policy or let the employees use their sick time.”
Originally, guidance came from the Families First
Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), but that policy lapsed at the end of
2020. The Town of Mountain City was following Trump Administration policies on this subject, but those expired in September 2021. Now officials are debating whether to continue paid leave and, if so, how much should be allowed. At this point, they have been continuing according to the last guidance.
All council members
and city officials onsite expressed opinions leaning towards continuing paid
leave and not requiring employees to dive into individual sick days and vacation days. Current quarantine rules require five days in quarantine, while employees only receive four sick days a year, one for each quarter, according to Shaw. If no policy is in place and workdays align with quarantine days, employees would have to use sick days and/or vacation days, which some officials worried would cause “financial hardships” and possible burnout.
“Employees aren’t going to like that,” Water Plants Manager Andy Garland explained after sharing a situation in his department. “That they’re having to burn their vacation, all their sick time, and everything and don’t ever get a day off.”
The policy that has been in place gives those who contract Covid-19 a one-
time covered leave of five days (40 hours) to fit
quarantine rules. Several council members showed concern considering that Covid-19 can be caught more than once.
“I know people who have had Covid two and three times, and I would think the policy should go along with as many times as you get Covid,” Vice Mayor Jerry Horne pointed out. “You’re not going to get it on purpose.”
City officials have put policy creation in Shaw’s hands. According to the plan discussed, she should seek guidance and present a proposition to the council afterward. The Mountain City Council meets on the first Tuesday of each month at City Hall at 6:30 pm. For more information on city government, visit mountaincitytn.org.