PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Six cities in the Hampton Roads region have announced they will conduct weekly COVID-19 testing for municipal employees who aren’t fully vaccinated.
According to a joint news release sent on Thursday, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk and Williamsburg are joining together to test all municipal employees weekly unless they’re fully vaccinated.
The policy will be put in place by Oct. 1.
Testing procedures will vary by each locality, the release said.
The cities said the rising number of COVID-19 cases both locally and nationally prompted the policy. Virginia is currently averaging about 1,800 new cases per day and is seeing about 7.6% of tests come back positive.
Deaths are still steady overall around (hovering between about three to six reported per day) and nearly all are unvaccinated, Virginia Department of Health data shows.
“As a community, we have the obligation to take additional steps to curtail the spread and, most importantly, save lives,” the release said. “… By working together as a region, we can make more progress in slowing the spread of this disease than any one of us can as an individual locality.”
The release continued: “We believe this additional precaution will improve our ability to meet three key goals: keeping our employees and their families healthier; maintaining our ability to serve our residents, especially with critical public safety services; and reducing community spread of COVID-19.”
The cities said they hoped announcing the new testing policy now would allow employees time to go get vaccinated.
Missing from the list are the 11 other cities, counties and towns that make up the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, which include heavily-populated Virginia Beach and Chesapeake.
Spokespeople for both said the cities were invited to join in.
“In a message this morning, the city manager let employees know that we are not yet at the point that he believes we need to impose mandates like what the six other cities have indicated they will be doing,” Julie Hill, with the City of Virginia Beach said. “As we have done for the last 18 months, we will continue to follow the direction of the Virginia Department of Health and the Governor’s Executive Orders while we encourage staff to get vaccinated and take prudent steps to safeguard their health and safety.”
In the City of Chesapeake, spokesperson Heath Covey said the “unified command continues to actively monitor the trends in the City and is committed to taking all necessary steps to ensure the health and safety of our employees and community.”
To find a vaccination site near you, visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or vaccinefinder.org. You can learn more about the vaccine, its safety and answers to frequently asked questions at VDH’swebsite and CDC’s website.
Stay with WAVY.com for updates.