BART's board announced Thursday that the agency is instituting a vaccine mandate for all BART employees, saying they must be fully vaccinated by December 13 or risk losing their employment.
The newly announced mandate at BART mirrors one already adopted by the SFMTA, which requires all its staff to be fully vaccinated by November 1 — something which will be difficult for any remaining holdouts unless they go get a Johnson & Johnson shot by tomorrow.
"By adopting this policy today, nobody is getting fired tomorrow," said BART Director Janice Li in a statement. "No one is being forced to get the vaccine, but this policy states that being vaccinated is a condition of employment."
BART says it will make exceptions for valid medical or religious regions, and it has instructed BART General Manager Bob Powers to bargain with the agency's labor union over how to handle employees who decide to remain unvaccinated. Powers is also being directed to implement a vaccine requirement for all agency contractors as well, as Bay City News reports.
The only BART director to vote against the new policy was — you guessed it! — Debora Allen, who represents Contra Costa County and has made headlines in recent years defending BART Police and arguing against any defunding.
Coming down on the side of right-wing pundits and all those Republican-leaning people who like to crow on the internet about doing their "own research" about vaccine science, Allen said, "I think each person should have the right to research and make their own medical decisions, as I did, without threats from their employer of losing their job."
Allen said she finally got her vaccination this summer, only after learning that immunity from the vaccines is more robust than what one gets from contracting COVID-19.
BART officials say that around 20 to 25 percent of agency staff remain unvaccinated.
Board Director Mark Foley said, per Bay City News, that he empathizes with vaccine skeptics, and that he himself was very anti-vaxx for years after his one-year-old daughter was diagnosed with autism. His daughter is now entering high school, and he says his family is now vaccinated.
"I can see where people come from," Foley said. "I understand. Coming from that perspective, I had doubts, I had concerns. But I also allowed myself to be guided by experts. And I was not the expert, Google was not the expert, fake news was not the expert."
As we learned last week, around 300 Muni bus and light-rail operators in San Francisco remained unvaccinated this month, with the deadline for full vaccination looming. The agency warned of potential service disruptions in November as a result of employees on leave or facing termination because of the vaccine mandate. Some employees were hoping to continue a policy of regular testing, but the SFMTA says that will not be allowed.
Photo: Ivan Mendoza