BOSTON — The deadline for the state’s COVID vaccination mandate may have passed, but the union representing Massachusetts State Police officers said hundreds of its members remain in limbo Monday, unsure whether they’ll be granted an exemption for religious or medical reasons.
“Though we are beyond the deadline, we have not received even one reply to the several hundred medical and/or religious exemption requests that were submitted,” said Michael Chevren, president of the State Police Association of Massachusetts (SPAM), who held a press conference Monday morning across from the Massachusetts State House.
Chevren said his understanding is that about 200 troopers submitted exemption requests and at least another 99 remain unvaccinated for other reasons. But the true number of members who could potentially lose their jobs may be somewhere between 300 and 400.
“Can you imagine the frustration level of our members?” Chevren said. “They don’t know whether they’re going to have a job today, tomorrow. They were told today is the final day. Nobody’s telling us what’s going on.”
But at an afternoon press conference, Governor Charlie Baker assured that exemption requests not already processed will be over the next couple of weeks.
“Our goal here is to make sure we connect with everybody who hasn’t already attested and find out exactly what their story is before we make any decisions,” Baker said.
The governor noted that 95% of the executive branch had complied with the mandate and more than 90% of State Police employees had.
What concerns Chevren - and what he says should concern the public - is that a deficiency of state troopers in Massachusetts will just get worse if the state goes through with COVID firings.
“Prior to today’s mandate, we were approaching nearly 600 uniformed members below a safe and manageable level,” Chevren said.
Thomas Mungeer, a trooper with the New York State Police who joined Chevren at the press conference, urged Governor Baker to adopt a different position with regard to the state mandate.
“In New York, we have ‘you either get vaccinated or you get weekly tested,’” he said. “And we sat down and we negotiated that out.”
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