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Pima County has fired 22 corrections officers, jail staffers

Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 7:10 PM MST|Updated: Jan. 4, 2022 at 9:14 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The final tally is 22 correctional officers. Those are the ones issued termination orders for refusing to get a vaccination against COVID-19 as a condition of their employment following a mandate passed by the Pima County Board in November.

The mandate said any county employee who works with a vulnerable population must be vaccinated. Inmates are considered a vulnerable population. There were 2,095 employees who fit the category.

Under the latest memo issued by Acting County Administrator Jan Lesher, 111 deputies and corrections officers have not been vaccinated or received an exemption. But 89 of them are on leave for military or family leave.

“So all of those 89 individuals, while not working with vulnerable populations at this time, have indicated that as they return to the work force they will continue to work with the sheriff’s department to make sure they’re vaccinated,” Lesher said.

One Supervisor, District 4 Republican Steve Christy questioned why those officers are being let go at a time when the department is suffering from a staff shortage.

“So what we’ve done is the more bad guys that we lock up equals more problems with fewer guards,” he said. “So I’m just continually astounded by this.”

It was not the only thing Christy question during the two hour meeting. He has frequently questioned the use of mandates, whether COVID case and death numbers are accurate, whether masks really work.

As he questioned Pima County’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Francisco Garcia, over a variety of issues, it became apparent that Dr Matt Heinz, Supervisor in District 2, was becoming irritated. Heinz works in a COVID ward in a Tucson hospital and has first hand knowledge of the issues of COVID-19 issues. He came to Dr. Garcia’s defense.

“It’s always a frustrating subject for me especially hearing Supervisor Christy talk about COVID, it’s very distressing,” he said. “Make no mistake, unvaccinated members of this community are actually killing people.”

Heinz went on to say unvaccinated members of the community are taking up bed space which would normally be used for surgeries such as heart bypass operations. Banner recently reported 80% of the patients in its COVID ward are unvaccinated.

“Well if you need a bypass Supervisor Christy, any of us, if your spouse needs a bypass, your kids, your grandparents need a bypass surgery, you cannot have that elective surgery,” he said.

Heinz says those kinds of surgeries are now being pushed back for weeks because of a lack of space increasing the chances of death before a surgery is scheduled.

As the meeting ended, Board Chair Sharon Bronson reminded the pair that because of the serious issues COVID has presented, civility is crucial right now.

“And gentlemen let’s remember the first syllable of that word and that is gentle,” Bronson said. “So let’s be gentle with one another.”

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