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Essex County sheriff mandates COVID-19 vaccine for all workers, vendors, volunteers

Each employee will need to provide proof of vaccination prior to Jan. 4, 2022. Religious and medical exemptions will be considered.

Essex County Sheriff Kevin Coppinger at the Middleton Jail. Photo / Mary Schwalm for The Boston Globe

Essex County Sheriff Kevin F. Coppinger issued an order that all sheriff employees, vendors, and volunteers provide proof of COVID-19 vaccinations by Jan. 4, 2022, according to a statement issued Tuesday.

The mandate follows Gov. Charlie Baker’s executive order that requires proof of vaccination for all state employees.

In the statement, Coppinger called the COVID-19 vaccine “the most effective tool we have to ensure the health and safety of all within our facilities.”

“We are a congregate care setting, and as such, we must make sure everyone has the vaccination to protect not only themselves and fellow staff, but to also protect every person that we provide care and custody for,” Coppinger said.

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Each employee will need to provide proof of vaccination prior to Jan. 4, 2022, according to the department. Religious and medical exemptions will be considered.

As the number of COVID-19 cases rises in the community due to the delta variant, the sheriff’s department and other detention centers across the state are also experiencing a spike in cases.

The department suspended visitation at the Middleton House of Corrections in August due to a rise in COVID-19 cases in the community. Recently, video visitation was also suspended to “mitigate movement” within the facility, according to a statement on the department’s website.

The jail’s spokeswoman, Gretchen Grosky, told The Salem News that the jail has made efforts to vaccinate as many prisoners as possible and sanitize the facility.

Of the department’s 568 employees, 72 percent have already provided proof of vaccination, according to Tuesday’s statement.

“The employees of the Essex County Sheriff’s Department have demonstrated great courage and commitment throughout this pandemic and worked tirelessly to keep our facilities operating each and every day,” Coppinger said. “I thank them for their support as we continue to navigate this pandemic.”

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