Testing Policy in Place for City Workers

First published in the Dec. 18, 2021, print issue of the Burbank Leader.

About three months after the City Council approved the policy, Burbank will soon require unvaccinated workers to undergo regular testing for COVID-19.

The requirement is scheduled to begin next week, assistant Community Development Director and city spokeswoman Simone McFarland confirmed to the Leader. A document detailing the policy has remained on the city of Burbank website since September, when City Council members adopted it to limit transmission of the coronavirus.

“I feel like there is some benefit to this, and doing it as quickly as possible,” Councilwoman Sharon Springer said during that meeting.

McFarland said the process of implementing the policy, which was originally slated for October, took longer than city staff members first expected.

The policy states that testing will occur weekly for workers who have not been fully vaccinated, which as of the most recent update — in October — was about 27% of city employees.

Testing will be provided free of charge and during work hours, according to the policy document.

Betsy McClinton, Burbank’s management services director, told the City Council in September that the unions representing city workers were “receptive” to the testing policy. They have been less receptive, she said later, to the municipality’s vaccine mandate, which the City Council narrowly approved in October. At the time, city officials said the mandate could begin in January, meaning the testing policy could only be in effect for about a month before it is supplanted.

McFarland said the details of the mandate remain under negotiations with the labor groups. It will include exceptions for workers with valid religious or medical exemptions.

The City Council also agreed in September to require all new hires to be vaccinated against COVID. Unlike the city of Los Angeles, Burbank has no vaccination requirement in place for customers of movie theaters, gyms and restaurants. However, Los Angeles County’s rules — which affect Burbank — require patrons and employees of indoor bars, wineries and nightclubs to prove they are vaccinated.