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Dallas offers more time off for vaccinated city staff, orders regular COVID tests for fire employees

City Manager T.C. Broadnax also announced Friday that unvaccinated civilian staff who contract the virus will no longer be eligible for paid quarantine leave.

Dallas City Hall
Dallas City Hall / Photo credit: Lara Solt/The Dallas Morning News

By Everton Bailey Jr.

Dallas is now offering more vacation time for city workers who are vaccinated against COVID-19 and requiring all fire department employees be regularly tested for the virus amid a rise in positive cases.

In a Thursday email to city employees announcing new coronavirus-related rules, City Manager T.C. Broadnax also announced that starting Nov. 2 unvaccinated staff who aren’t police officers, firefighters and detention officers will no longer get paid leave if they contract the virus.

The changes are expected to “allow us to increase the number of vaccinated city employees and will support the efforts underway both locally and nationally to slow the spread of the virus through higher vaccination rates,” Broadnax said in the email.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday signed a statewide executive order banning city and other government-imposed COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

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Broadnax said the mandatory tests start Friday and are being implemented specifically for all Dallas Fire-Rescue employees because there’s been “a steep incline in the number of positive cases since July.”

Jason Evans, a Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesperson, said the department has 81 members in quarantine as of Friday and 41 who’ve tested positive for coronavirus.

DFR has had 638 of its around 2,000 employees who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 since March 2020, Evans said. The overall number includes three cases in June and 29 in July.

Employees are required to use BinaxNOW rapid self-tests, which advertise results in 15 minutes. Fire staff who are most likely to interact with the public are required to be tested daily, training and support staff at least twice a week and administrative fire staff at least once a week.

Broadnax said fire employees who test positive on the rapid test will have to immediately go into isolation, be put on leave and be tested again to confirm their status.

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Also starting Friday, the city will be giving all city employees 40 extra hours of paid time off if they are fully vaccinated by next Wednesday. Employees who get shots after, but before Oct. 1 will get 24 hours of extra vacation time. Staff who are fully vaccinated by Nov. 1 will get eight more hours of paid leave.

All employees will have to provide proof of vaccination to get the extra time off. The incentive ends as of Nov. 2.

Paid leave for most unvaccinated city employees who contract the virus also ends the same day.

Sick uniformed employees, such as police and firefighters, will still get paid time off regardless of their vaccination status. But the maximum amount of leave they can claim due to the virus will be cut down from up to 112 hours to 80 hours.

Civilian staff who get the virus will also be eligible for up to 80 hours of paid quarantine leave if they give proof that they’ve been vaccinated. Broadnax said the city’s Human Resources Department would evaluate cases of employees who cite “a sincerely held religious belief” against getting a vaccine or “a disability-related medical reason” for not getting a shot.

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First responders are exempt because a new state law requires police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and detention center workers be paid if placed on quarantine leave.

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