Johnson County defers vaccine, testing mandate

By Paul D. Bowker
Posted 12/29/21

The date of Johnson County’s mandate on Covid vaccinations and testing was deferred to January 31 in a unanimous vote delivered by the Board of Supervisors on December 22.

The policy …

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Johnson County defers vaccine, testing mandate


The date of Johnson County’s mandate on Covid vaccinations and testing was deferred to January 31 in a unanimous vote delivered by the Board of Supervisors on December 22.

The policy requires county employees to be fully vaccinated unless they have filed a medical or religious exemption. Beginning January 31, unvaccinated employees must be tested weekly and they cannot begin work until a negative test is returned.

The mandate was deferred four weeks due to litigation that was being considered in federal courts. Susie Nehring, a county attorney, told the board at its work session December 21 that a Federal Court of Appeals decision on December 17 lifted a stay on Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforcement of vaccine mandates for employers that have more than 100 workers. Nehring recommended the deferral to the board from its original date of January 3.

The board passed the deferral by a 5-0 vote.

In the meantime, as of December 21, 104 county employees had not turned in a form indicating their vaccination status, missing a December 13 deadline. Of those employees, it was not clear how many had been vaccinated or were planning to do so.

At its formal meeting December 22, the board approved the purchase of up to 2,500 Covid tests at $8 apiece in anticipation of testing. The tests would be able to detect the existence of omicron, a new Covid variant that has resulted in a surge around the world and is already present in Iowa, Nehring said.

In addition to the policy on vaccinations and testing, a mask mandate remains in place in all Johnson County buildings, regardless of vaccination status. The mask mandate expires January 15, but is likely to be extended soon by the board.

Sam Jarvis, Community Health Division Manager, said the county was notified of its first Covid omicron case December 17.

“Iowa’s cases are predominantly delta [variant] still, but we anticipate that to change in short order given the quick spread of this,” he said. “We really need to get people vaccinated.”

All of Iowa remains in the “high risk” category, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As of Sunday, Johnson County had 442 Covid cases with a positivity rate of 9.51%.

Jarvis also encouraged residents to get vaccinated for the flu. He said statistics showed that 35.5% of Johnson County residents (27.8% of all Iowans) had received flu shots. The county numbers were about 5% lower than a year ago.

The board approved a new county precinct plan, which increases the number of voting precincts from 57 to 64. The new precincts go into effect January 15, 2022.

Voters in Lone Tree are part of the Fremont Township and Lincoln Township precinct.

Voters in Hills are part of the Pleasant Valley Township and Liberty Township precinct.

Voting locations will be established later by the Johnson County Auditor.

The board set January 13 as the date for a public hearing on an economic development plan for the country’s unincorporated areas, villages and smaller towns. The public hearing will be a part of the board’s formal meeting January 13, which will begin at 5:30 p.m. Other development and rezoning applications in the county will be heard that evening.


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