DALLAS - Dallas County Commissioners approved new COVID-19 policies for their 6,500 employees.
Weekly PCR tests are now required for employees who are unvaccinated. Fully vaccinated workers can opt out of the weekly tests.
Dallas County’s vaccinated workers will also get six extra days of paid sick leave if they test positive for the virus.
Critics argued that since the current vaccines have not been as effective for the omicron variant, all workers – vaccinated and unvaccinated – should be tested and treated equally.
"To truly create a safe workplace, what we need to do is test everyone," argued Commissioner J.J. Koch, who said he caught COVID-19 recently even though he is vaccinated.
He’s worried that unvaccinated workers who test positive will come into work while they are still symptomatic so that they don’t go unpaid.
He also believes the policy furthers the divide between the vaccinated and unvaccinated and creates hostility.
"Ultimately, it’s the taxpayers that are giving people extra hours of pay without working. If I’ve done all that I can by getting my shots and my booster then I get the omicron variant, what we’re saying is we’re not going to make you use any of your sick time. We’re going to give you 48 hours," Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said. "If I decided that I want to risk getting COVID because I don’t want to get the shot, I don’t believe in vaccines or I heard it made my friend sick. So, I want to take that risk and I take that risk and I get COVID, we’re not saying you’re not getting your sick days. We’re just saying you’re using the sick days that you always had. You’re not getting an additional 48 hours of taxpayer paid leave because you decided that was a risk you wanted to take."
Tarrant County made a similar change earlier this month and now only offers five days of extended sick pay to vaccinated workers if they catch COVID-19.
At the time, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said he hoped the change would encourage those who are not vaccinated to get the vaccine.
"I still just felt like it was time for some people to exercise some responsibility to, and if I’m going to give them an extra five days…I felt like it was appropriate to require that they get the vaccine," Judge Whitley said.
Dallas County is also offering $200 to employees who become fully vaccinated between Friday and the end of March.
The county’s new polices go into effect Friday.