WIA Seeks “Essential” COVID Vaccine Designation for Communications Workers

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The Wireless Infrastructure Association is working to help communications workers be considered “essential” when it comes to COVID vaccine distribution. The association is working with its state lobbyists on this effort, beginning with Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

WIA is sending a letter template to its state contacts to help them make the case. “It’s ultimately up to governors in each state to determine the vaccine schedule. We’re trying to get a higher priority for communication workers,” WIA VP Government and Public Affairs Matt Mandel told Inside Towers. “We’d like communications workers to be part of the ‘essential worker’ category.” But to be clear, the association is not asking to jump ahead of medical and other frontline workers.  

In a letter meant to act as a template that can be used in several states, the association  explains why communication workers are essential. “Health care providers, small businesses, students, and Wisconsin families are largely relying on wireless connectivity throughout the pandemic. As such, it is important that communication workers whose job it is to keep wireless networks running can continue to maintain, operate, and update facilities uninterrupted,” states WIA President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein in the document.

The letter shared with Inside Towers continues: “The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recognized this need to ensure our workers were able to do their jobs to keep Americans connected early in the pandemic by designating telecommunications workers as ‘Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.’ We ask that the essential function of communications workers be similarly recognized in your state’s vaccination policy.” 

Adelstein notes that keeping telecom services working at their peak level is no small task and is achieved by the “hardworking men and women” in the communications infrastructure industry. Maintaining wireless service is dependent on skilled work being done every day, he explains. 

“To keep the broadband networks operating optimally, teams of highly skilled workers must climb towers, work in tight spaces, and operate in a variety of environments to repair or maintain the broadband infrastructure. These jobs often require working near others, hundreds of feet above the ground or in office and residential buildings,” states Adelstein. “Tower crews, for example, are at a higher risk of transmission as they are required to travel from community to community, and often to neighboring states, to do their work.”

Mandel says the association has received questions from some members asking how they can get a higher vaccine priority. “We want to make sure the workers can get out there and do their job,” he said.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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