New federal vaccine mandate may help Pima County

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 7:06 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Pima County Health Department says 76% of the adult population has as lease one dose of the coronavirus vaccine and 67% are fully immunized.

That’s still short of the county goal of at least 80% vaccination. The higher number is needed because the predominate strain, the Delta variant, is so transmissible.

Now that President Joe Biden has issued a nationwide vaccine mandate, the county feels it may get closer to its goal.

The President has ordered companies who have more than 100 employees, make vaccinations or routine testing mandatory.

It also requires all health care workers be vaccinated, a proposal which was rejected by the Pima County Board of Supervisors earlier this week.

“I’m not the only person to suggest this,” said Dr. Matt Heinz, who first proposed the idea to the board. “I think I am but one of many voices to suggest this across the country.”

The proposal became contentious and was removed from the agenda.

“Doing this at the federal level will have the same effect as if Pima County was doing it and be much easier enforced,” Dr. Heinz said.

The mandate will be enforced by OSHA which is in charge of workplace safety.

Pima County Health is not sure at this point whether it will work with its federal partners on the mandates.

The rules will be written by the Labor Department and are predicted to be weeks away.

“The truth is we don’t know how the federal mandate will be rolled out,” said Dr. Francisco Garcia, the Chief Medical Officer for Pima County. “This rule making stuff is going to take a little bit of time to get done.”

But it will likely be a boon to the county’s efforts to get more people vaccinated.

“It will continue to add icing to the existing cake,” Dr. Garcia said. “II think the federal mandate will make a difference.”

But it appears the county is ready to let OSHA handle the enforcement of those companies with 100 or more workers and not get involved.

“I think we need to go, too think beyond the mandate to where are the other places in our community that need assistance in terms of getting vaccinated,” he said. “One of those is small business.”

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