All Sandy Springs city employees will receive one paid holiday and a $250 wellness bonus if they get their COVID-19 vaccination, including those staff members who already got their shots.

City Manager Andrea Surratt told City Council during their Aug. 18 meeting about the incentives. She also said the city was returning to Phase 1.5 of its pandemic reopening plan, which requires staff to wear masks when away from workstations. The public is encouraged to wear masks when coming to City Hall.

Mobile testing and vaccination sites are scheduled around Fulton County, including vaccinations from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Aug. 21 at Solidarity Sandy Springs, 5630 Roswell Road NE. (Ben Searles / CORE)

“I believe, mayor and council, we really are in serious times, and as Rabbi Heller referenced, people are experiencing this virus differently,” she said.

Rabbi Joshua Heller of Congreation B’Nai Torah offered a prayer to open the council meeting.

“As we pass through a time of fear and disease division and isolation, a time when neighbors may have different experiences of the same event, we pray for the health and safety of all,” he said.

The city’s last estimate was that approximately one third of its staff had been vaccinated, Surratt said. Employees are being asked to voluntarily tell the city if they have been vaccinated. That information will be kept private.

The city is without federal, state, or local mandates or restrictions and will rely upon science, Surratt said. Safety precautions include hand sanitizers, temperature tests and distancing for internal staff meetings, she said. Employees who work at open workstations near each other are being scheduled for staggered telework days.

The public will need to make an appointment to meet with permitting and revenue staff. City Hall and Sandy Springs Municipal Court are closed on Fridays for deep cleaning with fogging and other measures that she said keep the germs down.

The hybrid public meetings, which are held in the Studio Theatre and via livestream on the city website and through Zoom, have been a benefit, she said.

“It’s not a shutdown. We don’t have that mandated; we don’t have that interest. We just need to be safe,” Surratt said.

The city will look to CDC and public health guidance and what other organizations are doing on deciding if any changes must be made for concerts and other events at the Performing Arts Center, City Green and other city facilities, she said.

Councilmember John Paulson said the many talking heads on TV make things confusing, so he suggested bringing someone from the Georgia Department of Public Health to City Hall or get them on a Zoom meeting to encourage staff to get vaccinated. His idea was to give employees time to ask questions directly with a public health official.

Mayor Rusty Paul said in a meeting with Fulton mayors and the County Commission, the number one obstacle to vaccination is trust. They heard that the most persuasive person is an individual’s personal physician, he said.

“They still trust their own family doctor. And that is what we hope, that they will consult with their family doctor and get their straight scoop from that physician,” he said.

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Reporter Newspapers.