President Joe Biden’s call to require federal employees to be vaccinated or submit to strict safety protocols and weekly testing is getting mixed reactions from federal workers in San Diego.
The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) Chapter 11 represents more than 3,200 customs workers at San Diego’s ports of entry.
“As long as they’re being safe and they’re protecting themselves with masks and gloves, and they’re trying to do everything that the CDC guidelines state, then it should be their choice to get vaccinated,” said Derrick Arnold, Vice President, NTEU Chapter 11.
Get San Diego local news, weather forecasts, sports and lifestyle stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC San Diego newsletters.
President Biden’s order will require every federal worker to attest to their vaccination status. Anyone who refuses will have to wear a mask, social distance, and test one to two times a week.
The NTEU did not have an immediate official response to the testing requirement. The union reps, however, were relieved Biden did not mandate vaccinations.
Workers will be required to attest to their vaccination status. Anyone who does not attest will be required to mask no matter where they work and test 1-2 times a week, socially distance, and will generally not be allowed to travel for work."
“In this kind of situation, we believe that it should be the right of the employees to choose whether they want to get the vaccine or not. It is their bodies, and they should dictate what goes into their bodies,” said Arnold.
To be clear, union reps say the majority of customs employees are vaccinated. In fact, vaccinations were made available to NTEU members in February.
While some union members may not be willing to get the vaccine, Alfonso Ortiz, the Treasurer of NTEU, Chapter 11, said he’s encouraging his colleagues to get the shot.
“Get the vaccine. That’s what I tell them," Alfonso said.
Ortiz has a personal story to back up his plea. In July 2020, he was diagnosed with COVID-19. He said he was not hospitalized, but effectively knocked out of commission for 40 days.
“I got COVID. I went through a hard patch, I had family members that got sick, I know people that died, so when it became available to me, I decided to get the vaccine,” Ortiz he said.
Ortiz is calling for more information to be provided to employees who still may have concerns about the vaccine’s experimental status and long-term effects.
“At the end of the day, it’s educating the people to do the right thing,” Ortiz said.