By BECKY KISER
A few Hays police officers and firefighters have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to City Manager Toby Dougherty, and more frontline employees are on the city's list for the shots.
"We're trying to keep our customers, visitors and employees safe," Dougherty said Tuesday morning.
"We've been able to provide city services seamlessly," he said in looking back at the past year.
Dougherty plans to keep that trend going in 2021 as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
As the vaccines become more readily available for frontline workers, "I think we have a strong case for water, wastewater, police, fire, public works," he said.
"Those are essential workers."
Dougherty doesn't want or expect any city employees to get in line ahead of any frontline healthcare workers dealing directly with COVID patients.
"But when you look at the provision of services — fire, police, streets, traffic signals, snow removal, airport, water and wastewater treatment — those are critical infrastructure services. I hope our employees are first in line when vaccines for those type of workers are available."
Dougherty said Erin Giebler, Hays Human Resources director, has been in contact with Jason Kennedy, director of health services for Ellis County. She's provided a prioritized list of whom the city considers its essential workers.
The Ellis County Health Department is in charge of COVID vaccine distribution in Ellis County, which started with healthcare workers, including EMS, and then to long-term care residents.
"We have a list of people — starting with police and fire — that we need to get vaccinated. That's already begun with the first round," Dougherty said. "We are nowhere near having everybody vaccinated that we want to."
Dougherty added that getting the COVID-19 vaccine is "not mandatory for city employees at this time," noting he plans to get it himself when it becomes available.