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County could terminate those who refuse vaccinations

Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 6:54 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Pima County will decide on Tuesday how it wants to proceed in order to get more of its workers vaccinated now that the courts have paved the way for more stringent measures.

A Maricopa County Superior Court Judge, Katherine Cooper, ruled the state violated its own laws by passing bills which banned mask and vaccine mandates and tied them to a series of budget bills. The state has a single subject law which says individual bills can only broach one subject.

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department has 48% of its deputies and corrections officers who have been vaccinated.

“I’m very disappointed in the numbers,” Sheriff Chris Nanos said. “We are responsible for public safety.”

The concern is especially acute following a COVID-19 outbreak at the Pima County jail which, we’re told, saw two dozen inmates get sick and one died. As many as 10 correctional officers also became ill but it isn’t known if all of them had the virus.

“If you’re going to be in the business of protecting the population of Pima County, then we need to make sure that population is protected from us,” said District 2 Democrat Matt Heinz. “That especially includes law enforcement.”

The county tried to get more of its workers vaccinated by offering incentives like a $300 bonus and three days off with pay. While it worked for some, it barely budged law enforcement.

Part of the reason Heinz believes is because so much of the law enforcement population is made up a hard demographic to reach.

“The groups we’re struggling the most with are 20 to 29 year old’s who are our sheriff’s deputies, who are our corrections officers,” Heinz said. “A very large chunk of them are going to fall into that 20 to 29 year old demographic.”

Part of the conversation will be whether to withhold pay raises, promotions, restrict travel, increase health insurance premiums, and possible termination.

Sheriff Nanos said “I don’t want to punish anybody,” but he will be looking for ways to convince his deputies to get vaccinated.

The fear is, any threat of termination may force some officers to quit instead.

“That’s not what any of us want but we have to look towards the greater good here,” Heinz said. “I think the vast majority of people are going to come around.”

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