PHOENIX — The City of Phoenix just announced it is putting a pause on its vaccine mandate for all federal contract workers that was set to go into effect on January 18.
The move comes after a federal judge blocked President Joe Biden's vaccine mandate in a ruling on Tuesday, which Phoenix had previously cited when announcing its own mandate.
The City of Phoenix sent a letter to employees in November stating that due to the number of federal contracts held by the city, it is considered a federal contractor, meaning all city employees are subject to the provisions outlined in President Biden’s Executive Order.
In light of today’s federal court ruling, temporarily blocking a requirement for all federal contract workers getting the #COVID19 vaccine, the city of #PHX will pause implementation of the federal mandate requiring city workers be vaccinated by Jan. 18. pic.twitter.com/0XRW1VtJBt— City of Phoenix, AZ (@CityofPhoenixAZ) December 7, 2021
In a letter sent to city employees after the Tuesday ruling was announced, officials said in part, "Although the implementation of the vaccine requirement is on hold, employee safety remains top priority and we encourage employees to take advantage of the free COVID vaccine, booster shot, and testing options that are currently available."
The federal judge issued a preliminary injunction that prevents the Biden administration from enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors. The mandate was scheduled to take effect in January.
In balancing the harms of letting the mandate take effect or issuing an injunction, U.S. District Judge R. Stan Baker said an injunction would maintain the status quo.
However, he said allowing the mandate to take effect "would significantly alter their (the plaintiff's) ability to perform federal contract work which is critical to their operations."
“It’s a disastrous policy that will have disastrous consequences for our citizens,” said Councilmember Jim Waring, District 2 during a city council meeting Tuesday.
While the court battles out the mandate, the Phoenix City Council brought data to the table to show what COVID has already done to city employees.
The virus has taken the lives of 24 employees with public safety workers being the most vulnerable.
Twenty-nine percent of city employees have already had COVID.
Phoenix employees who have submitted their vaccine card are split nearly down the middle, 51% have - 49 % have not.
Those in favor of the mandate pointed south of the city.
“Tucson had a mandate and the city says now 99% compliance,” said Councilmember Yassamin Ansari, District 7.
Outside the chambers, some demonstrators feel the city never should have never implemented a vaccine mandate in the first place knowing it would be challenged in court.
“Let people have a relationship with their doctors, and let the experts tell them how to look out for their health,” said Merissa Hamilton with Strong Communities Action, EZAZ.org.
A poll taken by the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association measures 600 public servants out of 1,000 who reportedly took the poll would quit their job - if a vaccine mandate was put in place.
The Phoenix Police Department told ABC15, the number of retirement and resignations submitted since the city’s vaccine mandate was announced is at 12, eleven sworn and one civilian.
“None of the employees who recently retired or resigned cited the vaccine mandate as a reason for their departure. December is historically a higher than average month for employee departures,” said Donna Rossi, director of communications with Phoenix Police Department.
When asked if he feels officers would leave “in droves” if a vaccine mandate was put into effect, President Britt London with the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association said people are already going to other agencies.
"I don't know droves because of those 600 some would get religious or medical exemption but we already have people going to other agencies, it's a fact,” said London.