Hillsborough County government lost more than 44,000 hours of productivity from its workforce this year because of employees quarantining after a COVID-19 diagnosis.
That’s the equivalent of 1,112 weeks of lost time due to the pandemic, or 21 years of service from a single employee working a 40-hour week.
It is one of the reasons the county devised an incentive of $500 and two extra vacation days to encourage its workers to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine. In announcing the program last month, County Administrator Bonnie Wise said the pandemic’s effect on the workforce “directly hinders our ability to deliver quality service over the long-term, impacts our health care costs, and expands our overtime budgets.”
At the time Wise announced the incentive Sept. 13, the county said 52.6 percent of its employees had been vaccinated.
Last week, she said the percentage of vaccinated employees had surpassed 60 percent. The incentive program ends Friday.
“I definitely think it’s a worthwhile investment,” Wise said.
The county has approximately 5,000 employees eligible to receive the vaccination incentive. On Sept. 30, the county said 2,885 employees had submitted the necessary documentation.
That equates to a financial commitment of more than $1.44 million in incentives, a cost county officials expect to offset in part by health care savings and reduced overtime.
“I’m happy with the program. It stopped short of a mandate. I do not agree with mandates,” said Commissioner Stacy White. “If offering incentives for folks to go and get the vaccine — if they wanted to take advantage of that or if that encourages them to get vaccinated — I think that’s a good thing.”
According to data compiled by the county, 717 Hillsborough County government employees were diagnosed with COVID-19 between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, translating to an estimated 44,515 lost hours of work.
The county said some of the 717 infected employees were able to work from home during their quarantine periods and they are not included in the lost productivity calculation.
Employees who have not submitted their vaccination card by Friday will have to submit to weekly testing beginning Oct. 18 and will be required to wear a mask while at work. Or, unvaccinated employees can submit proof of COVID-19 antibodies on a monthly basis without the testing requirement.
The county also requires employees hired after Aug. 30 to show proof of vaccination.
County data through Sept. 24 showed Fire Rescue had the fewest vaccinated employees, on a percentage basis, at 36.85 percent.
Four of the county’s 37 departments reported a 100 percent vaccination rate among their employees. They included the 911 Agency, Community Infrastructure and Planning, and Homeless and Community Service.
Commission Chairwoman Pat Kemp, who also lauded the incentive program, said the fourth fully vaccinated department shouldn’t come as a surprise.
It’s the Risk Management Department.
• • •
Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage
DELTA VARIANT: The contagious variant has changed what we know about staying safe from COVID-19. Here's what you need to know.
KIDS AND COVID: Kids are back in school, but COVID-19 is still a problem. Here's what parents and kids need to know.
GET THE DAYSTARTER MORNING UPDATE: Sign up to receive the most up-to-date information.
A TRIBUTE TO FLORIDIANS TAKEN BY THE CORONAVIRUS: They were parents and retirees, police officer and doctors, imperfect but loved deeply.
HAVE A TIP?: Send us confidential news tips
We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on the coronavirus in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription.