Of the city’s nearly 35,000 workers, 96% have been fully vaccinated—the “highest of any jurisdiction we’re aware of,” said Mayor London Breed on Tuesday. That signals a return to business as usual, at least for city staff.
City employees are required to start working in person again starting on Nov. 1, which marks the last deadline for those employees to provide proof of vaccination. At an appearance at the Board of Supervisors, Breed linked the mandate to the city’s broader recovery, saying that government staff returning to work in-person might encourage other employers to do the same.
“It will help encourage the private sector to bring back their workers,” said Breed. “It will help our small businesses that are excited to welcome people back, and it will help us all get back to where we want to be as a city.”
Despite the city’s high vaccination rates—89% of residents over aged 12 are vaccinated, and mandatory vaccinations are common at private employers—office workers in the city’s downtown core have been slow to return. Building access data from Kastle Systems shows a small uptick in San Francisco office visits as of last week, but visitations are still only at about 25% of normal capacity.
Among city workers, there are a few vaccine holdouts that could prove painful for some residents.
Among them are SFMTA workers, of which 275 are either unvaccinated or have not yet reported their status. That’s an improvement over two weeks ago, when the agency warned that 640 of its staff were presumed unvaccinated. But riders should nonetheless expect service disruptions starting next month, including unreliable arrival predictions, late buses and a drop in parking enforcement, said SFMTA director Jeffrey Tumlin on Tuesday.
The agency is expecting a new class of operator trainees in early November, added Tumlin, but those new workers won’t be enough to offset service disruptions. To fill service gaps, the agency is heavily promoting overtime, among other efforts to mitigate any loss of transit operators.
“We apologize to all our passengers...we are working hard to allocate new staff,” he said.
Separately, Breed cited a handful of other public-facing city departments that may have to terminate employees.
At the police department, 93 members, including 46 sworn officers, are undergoing administrative review and may be terminated for violating the city’s vaccination mandate, said Breed. Twenty-nine members of the fire department, 50 members of the sheriff's department, and 224 employees of the Department of Public Health, including 160 workers at its two hospitals, are presumed unvaccinated.
“I'm hopeful that we can get even more employees vaccinated. We are seeing improvements in [SFMTA’s] numbers, and we are working very closely with the agency on outreach,” said Breed.
Annie Gaus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org