Police, deputies and firefighters have fallen behind on vaccinations

Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 7:10 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Now that the courts have paved the way for mask and vaccine mandates, both the city and county are working quickly to take advantage of the window.

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge, Katherine Cooper, ruled the laws prohibiting the mandates were unconstitutional because of procedural issues. The state, she said, violated the single subject law when it attached the mandate bills to budget bills.

Pima County will consider appropriate penalties at its next session but has not decided yet what they will be.

When asked whether the county will consider options to get more employees of the Sheriff’s Department vaccinated County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said “quite likely yes and with the approval of the Sheriff.”

As of now, only 48% of the deputies and corrections officers are vaccinated, far below the county employees 75%.

Even the Sheriff Chris Nanos believes the numbers are unacceptable.

“We’re responsible for public safety and I can’t think of anything more important right now than the pandemic,” he said. “I’m disappointed in the numbers.”

Still, he’s not sure how to get the deputies to roll up their sleeves.

“I don’t want to punish people,” he said.

Republican Supervisor Steve Christy from District 4 says he’s an advocate of vaccines, he’s been vaccinated, but believes whether to get the shots should be a matter of personal choice.

“By forcing employees to be vaccinated, it will create a), a hostile work environment and b), cause them to leave their positions,” he said. “Which I think Is an even bigger problem.”

But he’s not sure how to get them to comply.

“Why, with that feeling they have towards service, what is stopping them from getting vaccinated,” he said. “To me, if they’re stuck in their hesitancy to do it, that speaks volumes and I don’t quite know what that speaking is.”

The city of Tucson is moving ahead with the vaccine mandate it passed 6-1 in August which requires all 4,000 city workers to be vaccinated as a condition of employment.

Although some of the harsher penalties have been paused as the case winds through the courts, the state Attorney General Mark Brnovich has already appealed, some penalties have now taken effect.

Those who are not vaccinated and whose applications for exemptions have been denied, will have 72 hours to get the vaccination or face penalties.

Those may be no promotions, no training and travel restrictions. They will be required to wear a mask even if their exemption has been approved.

In the meantime, the harsher penalties like a five day suspension without pay have been paused until the cases wind their way through the courts.

At this point, 83% of city workers and 75% of county workers have been vaccinated.

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