William J. McCarthy Jr.
The rising trends for COVID-19 as the Delta variant continues its spread are disturbing. As I write this, there have been more than 700 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state in the last 24 hours, and the positivity rate is above 3.5 percent for the first time in three months. Since the pandemic’s start, Baltimore City and County trail only Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in number of cases; next is Anne Arundel County, whose cases are more than double those in Frederick County.
With great concern for the newly rising risk, Catholic Charities has decided that it is time to mandate vaccinations among our colleagues across Baltimore City and the nine counties where we work.
We make this decision after a great deal of deliberation. We know that we have many colleagues whose concerns about a vaccine are deeply rooted in a legacy of race-based experimentation, questions about vaccines developed for emergency use, and other anxieties. This mandate is by no means a denial of that cruel and tragic history or an invalidation of those feelings. We are acting on the firm foundation of our commitment to the health of our colleagues, clients, and community.
We work with very vulnerable individuals, and we ourselves are often made vulnerable, as well. As an organization, we have mandated PPE, have educated on and emphasized the strong recommendation toward vaccination since before the vaccines became available, and have followed state and federal guidelines, even extending them. Our colleagues have done a tremendous job being vigilant and keeping themselves and one another safe. This mandate is the next logical and meaningful step in that protection.
We are taking particular care to communicate this decision clearly. Our HR team is planning a process by which verification and data storage can be reliable and quick without jeopardizing personal health information. We are offering help in scheduling appointments and taking time off to receive the vaccine. Religious or health exemptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis with proper documentation.
Deadlines will be clearly communicated as well, so that colleagues have advance understanding of the mandates, including a phase-in plan that prioritizes our most vulnerable client interactions: those with our older Marylanders and children under 12 who are not yet able to be vaccinated.
We, along with the rest of our community, are certainly tired. Yet we must be enduring in our responsibility to one another, so that we can maintain the trust our neighbors have invested in us. We are grateful for that trust, and for our nearly 2,000 colleagues across the state who have made it possible. Amid this global crisis, we thank them for their commitment.