CANAAN — Officials say they won’t require vaccinations for town employees, including EMS personnel and other emergency workers, despite a state-imposed deadline for all health care workers in Maine to be vaccinated.

The Select Board in August voted to make vaccinations against COVID-19 voluntary for all municipal workers, and town leaders this week said they don’t intend to change their position even though the town could face state sanctions.

Fire Chief Troy Bowden declined to comment this week when contacted by the Morning Sentinel. “I’m not gonna comment on that, I already know what you’re asking,” he said.

The town’s website says the fire department is “actively seeking volunteers,” and town leaders have said they’re concerned that a vaccination mandate would result in people leaving the department.

Gov. Janet Mills announced the requirement for health care workers on Aug. 12. The deadline for vaccination was initially Friday but she announced that the deadline would be extended to Oct. 29 to give health care workers more time to receive a vaccine.

President Joe Biden previously announced his administration is requiring that all employers with at least 100 workers ensure that their workforce is fully vaccinated, or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to regularly produce a negative test result.

The executive director of the Maine Municipal Association, Cathy Conlow said, “Municipalities are making decisions for themselves based off prevalence of the disease in regards to masking and vaccination.”

Most towns will wait for the state Department of Labor to release guidelines before making further decisions, and then will consult with their attorneys, Conlow said.

But the Maine labor department issued a statement on Sept. 17 that says, “The U.S. Department of Labor has informed the Maine Department of Labor that its forthcoming COVID-19 vaccination requirement will apply to public sector employers in Maine, including state, county and local governments and public school systems.”

Canaan Selectman Daniel Harriman said Tuesday that town leaders are aware of the state vaccination requirements but that the Select Board doesn’t intend to change its August vote. He declined to comment further.

A message left with Mills’ press office about any punitive measures the state may impose against towns that don’t comply was not returned Wednesday.

In the adjacent town of Skowhegan, there’s been pushback against the vaccine requirement. But Fire Chief Shawn Howard said at a recent selectmen’s meeting that, “Unfortunately, we have to abide by these laws and we have to follow through with making sure that all of our employees are vaccinated. This may mean that we lose some employees.”

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