Tarrant County COVID-19 sick pay now only for employees who are vaccinated

Tarrant County officials said it is hard to keep offices open right now, with so many staff members out sick. 

But the county's extended sick pay just cannot go on anymore.

There is a debate behind a key policy change for Tarrant County employees.

"If I stay home, I’m not going to get paid. I don’t feel well, but I need to get paid," Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks said Tuesday.

The debate is whether to take away the additional 10 days of paid leave the county extended to workers who come down with COVID-19, or revamp the guidelines.

"At some point, we’ve got to stop this. We’ve got to stop giving the time away," Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said.

Whitley and the commission agreed on a compromise.

"I did agree to extend and give them five days, but not 10, as we’ve done in the past. But five days, as long as they had gotten vaccinated, as long as they’ve gotten the vaccine," Whitley said.

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Tarrant County currently has 4,482 employees, including full time and temporary workers.

To date, the county has no official data on how many are vaccinated, however, under the compromise, employees would need to provide proof of vaccination or a valid exemption to qualify for the extended leave.

According to Judge Whitley, one serious challenge amid the latest surge with the omicron variant of the virus is keeping county operations up and running. 

"I was talking to our tax assessor collector this morning, she has some, over 50 people, who are out right now out of 186 that work in our different offices there," he explained. "She says some of them have had it multiple times and so they were taking advantage of, which we want them to take advantage of, the time off, but they’re still not vaccinated."

Whitley said he is hopeful the changes made with COVID-related leave will encourage those who are not vaccinated already 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," he added.