(The Center Square) – Add emergency medical services to the list of public safety and health sectors across the state affected by COVID-19 vaccine and testing mandates.

In Chicago, thousands of police officers face possible discipline for not complying. Advocate Aurora Health has fired more than 400 employees for not showing their vaccine status. The mandates are also impacting the EMS sector.

“Generally we understand that there’s a concern about the availability of testing, the cost of testing and then the implementation of this,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Chief of Staff Justin DeWitt. He was testifying at Tuesday’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules Tuesday about concerns from the EMS industry.

Committee co-chair state Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago, said he supports the idea of EMS being vaccinated, but said the mandates could have consequences.

“Ambulance districts that are already having personnel problems might have further problems because of the workability of some of the rules,” Cunningham said.

The emergency rule for EMS in effect was filed on Sept. 19. It requires weekly testing or proof of vaccination.

“Each provider shall require staff who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to have, at a minimum, the first dose of a two-dose vaccination series or a single-dose vaccination by September 19, 2021, the second dose within 30 days following administration of their first dose in a two-dose vaccination series,” the rule states.

There are medical and religious exemptions.

“Hopefully accommodations can be made and amendments can be made to these emergency rules to ensure that we’re enforcing the vaccination and testing but also that we’re not creating these gaps in service,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham asked for a delay in enforcement. DeWitt said they expect to only go after EMS operators “completely flaunting the requirements.”

JCAR is expected to revisit the issue at its meeting next month.

Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience and hosts the WMAY Morning Newsfeed out of Springfield.