All Orange County Tax Collector workers required to get COVID vaccine

The Orange County Tax Collector’s Office now requires all current and new employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment.

In a memo to employees, the agency said all employees must be fully vaccinated by August 31. Employees must get the Moderna COVID vaccine by August 3 or the Pfizer COVID vaccine by August 10 to meet the deadline.

The tax collector’s office said it is implementing the new policy because it is required by law to provide a safe work environment for all employees and the vaccine helps achieve that goal. 

"Having non-vaccinated employees that can spread COVID-19 among other vaccinated employees is not providing a safe work environment," the memo stated. 

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The agency also said it is an essential government agency and cannot afford to shut down because of a COVID outbreak. It cited a fiscal responsibility since taxpayers fund the Orange County healthcare plan and claims are paid directly from a fund set-up with taxpayer dollars.

"Serious COVID cases that require hospitalization cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is fiscally irresponsible for us to potentially incur high hospital bills for a communicable disease that is easily prevented by vaccination."

The agency said it will provide exceptions for employees with "sincere religious belief" or "medical exception." They will have to apply by August 10 for the exemption and reapply every year. If the exception is approved, they must wear a mask at all times while on Orange County Tax Collector property. 

They may also be required to submit a negative COVID test at the beginning of every workweek. A prior positive COVID test does not qualify as an exemption. 

RELATED: 'We are now in crisis mode': Orange County Mayor Demings urges unvaccinated to get the shot

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs made a similar move Monday, becoming the first federal agency to require employees with direct patient contact to get the COVID vaccine. The department said the new policy will impact roughly 115,000 employees across the nation. They have 8 weeks to get fully vaccinated or face possible removal from federal service. 

The VA said the move is necessary to protect its staff and patients after losing tens of thousands of veterans to the virus. 

Watch FOX 35 News for the latest on the COVID-19 vaccine.