Kanawha County Commission updates coronavirus sick leave policy

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Kanawha County Commission voted Thursday to change its sick leave policy related to the coronavirus.

The commission previously approved a policy allowing vaccinated employees to be placed on paid administrative leave if they tested positive for the virus or had a reaction to vaccine doses. Commissioners updated what will be considered vaccinated; employees must receive a booster dose to use the benefit.

Workers have 30 days to get their booster shot.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper (File)

Commission President Kent Carper described the original and updated policy as “imperfect” given changes with the coronavirus and the omicron variant.

“Now, it appears I think to any reasonable person that you need a booster if you are vaccinated,” he added.

The change comes amid a trend of rising coronavirus cases in Kanawha County; the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department on Thursday reported 789 new cases and 2,199 active cases.

“We’re seeing this just like it was with the vaccine when it was first available. Now, we’re seeing it because people aren’t getting boosted, and the vaccine wears off. You’ve got to get boosted,” Commissioner Ben Salango said. “I think it’s a way to protect our employees. I think it’s a smart thing to do.”

Commissioner Lance Wheeler noted the importance of limiting pressure on local agencies and health care facilities already stressed by rising case numbers.

“This is an approach to having a transparent conversation without employees having to make sure that when they feel symptoms, they don’t think they’re going to miss out from work. And they’re going to be able to be open with us, come to us, their staff, their bosses, and have a conversation with them and say, ‘Hey, I may be sick. I have to go get tested. I’ll be back,’” he said.

The commission agreed to provide local outside agencies with a copy of the policy for officials to consider.

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