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Roanoke's mayor backs off push for city mandate, but implores people to get vaccine

Roanoke's mayor backs off push for city mandate, but implores people to get vaccine

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Sherman Lea

Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea did not follow through Monday on a recently stated goal to propose a vaccine mandate for city employees.

Lea raised the topic at the regular council session as he planned to do and expressed his strong belief in vaccination for several minutes, but no action occurred.

The city’s 1,700 employees are encouraged to get the vaccine against COVID-19, but there is no requirement nor any public plans to impose one. City employees are required to wear masks while working indoors.

Two hundred city employees have been infected with the disease as of July 30, City Manager Bob Cowell said.

The city of Richmond in early August announced a vaccine mandate for its 3,600 workers. Employees will have the option to pass a regular COVID-19 test in lieu of vaccination, however.

Soon after Richmond acted, Lea told The Roanoke Times he saw a need for “strong action” in Roanoke including a worker vaccine mandate. But he said Monday he’s looking to state officials for further guidance on virus mitigation.

“I think we need to watch and see where the governor’s headed,” Lea said.

Lea spoke emphatically for vaccination.

“We’re seeing young people die across this country and in this state,” he said. “So get vaccinated!”

“I’m just disappointed that it has gone into the political arena,” he said.

Describing the influence of politics on some people, Lea said, “If you’re in a red area you don’t take it, you don’t do it, and, if you’re blue you go ahead and do it, which is nonsense. This is about life!”

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Jeff Sturgeon covers the city of Roanoke, including schools, banking and transportation. Phone: (540) 981-3251. Email: jeff.sturgeon@roanoke.com. Mail: 201 W. Campbell Ave., Roanoke, VA 24011.

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