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Tucson to require vaccinations for city employees starting Aug. 24

Those who fail to obtain waiver or get first dose could be suspended without pay for eight days
KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Aug. 13, 2021 at 12:53 PM MST|Updated: Aug. 13, 2021 at 6:34 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Tucson City Council hosted a special meeting Friday, Aug. 13.

The only item on the agenda was to discuss and vote on an ordinance that would require staff get vaccinated as a “condition of continued employment.”

The ordinance passed 6-1, reaching a supermajority. Mayor Regina Romero and council members Lane Santa Cruz, Paul Cunningham, Karin Uhlich, Richard Fimbres and Steve Kozachik voted for while Nikki Lee was the lone no vote.

According to the city, around 1,000 of its 4,500 employees are unvaccinated.

Tucson City Manager Michael Ortega recommended the council and Mayor Regina Romero approve the ordinance, which they did.

Several large governmental agencies -- U.S. federal, New York and California -- have said they will require at least some employees get vaccinated. Large private companies -- like Google, Facebook and the NFL -- have done the same.

Banner Health and TMC HealthCare, two of the largest health employers in Arizona, recently announced they would also require the vaccine.

Tucson employees have until Tuesday, Aug. 24, to get at least one dose of the approved vaccines. If an employee doesn’t do that or doesn’t obtain a waiver from a physician, they could be suspended without pay for five days.

Employees who refuse to get vaccinated could also face “mandatory testing, restrictions on travel or eligibility for certain assignments, enhanced mask-wearing requirements and more.”

There is a caveat in the ordinance though.

If at least 750 of the 1,000 unvaccinated employees get their shot by Friday, Aug. 20, the policy would not go into effect.

Ortega will report to the council during the next meeting, set for Sept. 9, about how many of the employees have gotten vaccinated. If not enough get the shot, the council may consider termination as a punishment.

The ordinance also allows the city to offer incentives, like additional leave/time off, for those who get vaccinated.

According to Ortega, the city has the legal right to require the vaccine.

“The City of Tucson, as an employer, may lawfully compel its employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and/or to get regular testing to determine any COVID-19 infection, subject to legally required exemptions and/or accommodations based upon medical conditions/disabilities and sincerely held religious beliefs,” he wrote in a letter to the council and mayor. “The policies and requirements as proposed incorporate these legal requirements. The City Attorney has reviewed and approved all components of the policies.”

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