State police union sues over governor’s vaccination mandate

Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Defense


BOSTON (AP) — The union that represents about 1,800 Massachusetts State Police troopers went before a judge Wednesday to ask for a delay in the implementation of Gov. Charlie Baker’s state employee coronavirus vaccine mandate.

The union’s lawsuit filed last week asks for the delay so the union can “negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment.”

An attorney for the State Police Association of Massachusetts told the judge that Baker’s Oct. 17 deadline is arbitrary and made bargaining impossible. He said that because of the timing required between shots, unvaccinated troopers would need to schedule their first of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine by Sunday in order to comply.

He said about 20% of troopers are not yet vaccinated.

At attorney for the state said the administration has to have the ability to set a deadline and argued that troopers can still get the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be in compliance.

The judge did not rule.

Baker, at a separate news conference Wednesday, said the mandate is intended to protect the public and he expects the suit to be resolved amicably.

The union also asks that troopers who choose not to get vaccinated, or who have already had COVID-19, be allowed to instead wear a mask on the job and undergo weekly coronavirus testing.

The union is also asking for “presumptive protection” for troopers who get sick from COVID-19 or the vaccine. The union wants any coronavirus-related injury or death “automatically be considered a line-of-duty injury,” which would come with additional benefits for members.

Baker announced last month that 42,000 state workers and contractors in the executive branch are required to be vaccinated, or be granted a legitimate exemption, or face disciplinary action up to and including termination.

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TOPSFIELD FAIR

Another major Massachusetts agricultural fair will require guests to wear face coverings indoors.

Organizers of the more than 200-year-old Topsfield Fair said Wednesday that the mandate is in line with a Topsfield Board of Health directive issued Monday.

“Our goal is to always provide a safe and enjoyable atmosphere at the Topsfield Fair,” General Manager James O’Brien said in a statement. “We will inform people about this mandate on our website, as well as signs posted outside and inside the fairgrounds.”

The fair is also encouraging fairgoers to make use of hundreds of hand-washing and hand-sanitizing stations throughout the fairgrounds and is asking anyone feeling unwell to stay home.

The fair, first held in 1818, runs from Oct. 1-11 this year. It was canceled last year because of the pandemic but in a typical year draws up to 500,000 visitors.

The Big E announced last week that it would require masks indoors in line with town of West Springfield rules.

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ZOO VACCINATIONS

The operator of the Boston area’s two major zoos said Wednesday is has started vaccinating some animals that are susceptible to contracting COVID-19.

The vaccination effort at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and the Stone Zoo in Stoneham will focus first on primates and large cats, as well as ferrets and river otters.

“While we have not had any cases of COVID-19 with the animals at Zoo New England’s Franklin Park Zoo and Stone Zoo, this vaccine is an important preventative health measure to protect species that are susceptible to contracting the virus,” senior veterinarian Chris Bonar said in a statement posted on the organization’s website.

The Zoetis vaccine, developed especially for animals, is administered in two doses. It is expected to take three to four months to fully vaccinate all at-risk species at the zoos.