Athens City Council passed an ordinance Tuesday that expands medical leave to city employees impacted by COVID-19.

This ordinance will extend the Family First Coronavirus Response Act, which provides 80 hours of sick leave to employees impacted by COVID-19, to the end of December.

In order for city employees to receive this benefit, they must be vaccinated for COVID-19 upon its availability. City Council President Chris Knisely said vaccines are available this week for people 80 and over. 

Mayor Steve Patterson said vaccines will be available the week of Jan. 25 for people 75 and over and individuals with severe congenital disabilities or developmental disorders. Starting the week of Feb. 1, it will be available to people 70 and over and to employees in the K-12 school systems. The vaccine will be available to those 65 and over the week of Feb. 8. Patterson said people should contact Athens pharmacies directly to receive their vaccine.

Knisely said 500 vaccines were initially made available for essential services workers, and 450 of those were immediately distributed.

Councilwoman Arian Smedley, D-1st Ward, said although there is interest in providing the vaccine to many demographics, the health department is required to follow the phasing plan provided by the state.

Patterson also informed the Council that after preventing water shutoffs in the city of Athens during the pandemic, there are 350 delinquent accounts in the city that total more than $160,000 in delinquency.

“The City clearly does not wish to shut off anybody’s water ... but we’ve got to start using the tools that we have available to get people to pay on their delinquent bills,” Patterson said.

Patterson encourages those unable to pay their water bills to contact the city utility billing office in order to work out payment plans, but those with delinquent accounts will begin to see disconnect notices Feb. 4.

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