FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The City of Fresno will now require unvaccinated employees to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing, Mayor Jerry Dyer announced in a news conference on Wednesday.
The weekly testing will be fully implemented by September 7. Dyer said the city is not at the place to mandate vaccines for city employees.
"We're not here to question why people do not get vaccinated. We're not here to vilify those people," Dyer said. "One thing we do know is that we're going to continue to encourage people to be vaccinated because we don't want to go backwards."
The announcement comes as Fresno County has seen a continuous increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
As of Wednesday, the county reported 164 COVID hospital patients and 31 COVID-19 patients in the ICU. That's up from the 41 hospitalizations and 4 ICU patients reported on July 11.
"We're trying to take a very measured approach and incentivize people who are not vaccinated to get vaccinated," Dyer said.
Dyer said the city is trying to incentivize unvaccinated employees to get the vaccine by requiring weekly testing. The city is also allowing vaccinated employees to go maskless, another incentive for employees to become vaccinated.
The mayor said of the 4,149 city of Fresno employees, at least 36% have been vaccinated, but he said the actual number could be closer to 50%. The city requires does not allow employees to "self-attest" that they have been vaccinated to be exempted from the rules, they must show their physical vaccine cards to city officials.
Dyer said there are currently 70 employees at the city are in quarantine because they've been exposed to COVID-19 or have tested positive for COVID-19.
Councilmember Luis Chavez said the difference between now and when the pandemic began is that health officials better understand the virus and how to protect people from it -- with vaccines.
Dyer said that the city's focus it make sure those who are unvaccinated, remain safe. That includes having people work from home.
Dyer said that he's prepared for people to voice their opposition to the new rule, an apparent reference to Councilmember Garry Bredefeld, but said the new rules are in place to try to save lives. Councilmember Bredefeld sent out a statement shortly before the Mayor's news conference calling the rules "authoritarian mandates."
In the statement, Bredefeld incorrectly stated that city was going to "force" employees to get vaccinated.
"We are not basing these conditions on politics, we are basing these conditions on facts," Dyer said
This is a developing story.